A Day of Cooking: Challah Bread

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When I was younger, my Dad and I used to try to find really complicated recipes and spend a few hours in the kitchen making a new dish.  The one I remember most vividly was trying to make paella. It was quite the production and it seemed like we dirtied every single pot in our kitchen.  I credit those kitchens sessions with my dad to helping cultivate my creativeness with food and helping me learn to not be afraid to try things with new food.

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I asked my mom if I could make dinner for everyone while I was home, and my dad heard that, and asked if he could cook with me.  So, we spent most of yesterday making a meal that was complex, delicious and that we were pretty proud of.  During our adventures yesterday, I learned that my dad used to bake bread when he was in college.  I knew he was kind of a hippie and made his own yogurt and some other food, but I did not know that he made his own bread.  He knows his way around some yeast and flour!

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We made Challah bread, which I had never made before because that was the day school got cancelled last year from a giant snow storm.  We used a recipe from the Joy of Cooking, but of course altered it a little bit.  This is the best home made bread I’ve made to date.  It’s everything bread should be, fluffy, tender, rich from the eggs and perfect for soaking up hot broth from a roast.  It will also make your house smell fantastic while it’s baking.  Steve’s going to be excited I know how to make this now; it’s his favorite bread!

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I’m not sure if I can post the recipe, since it’s from a cookbook, but if you happen to have The Joy of Cooking, here are my modifications:

  • Swapped bread flour for all purpose flour.
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar instead of 3

Also, a note about the amount of flour they suggest:  You’re supposed to add 1/2 a cup with the yeast while it’s activating and then another 2 1/2 cups.  We added all that flour and our dough was too dry.  We had to knead about 1/4 cup more water into the dough to get the right moisture level.  You could probably leave out the last 1/2 cup of flour.  Or add flour slowly until you get a dough that has the right texture.  You’re looking to be able to pull a piece off the dough and have it stretch off so that it makes a “window” that you can see light through.  That’s how you know the glutens have properly formed.  The dough should also be smooth and be slightly damp to the touch.

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There are few things I can think of that are better than spending a whole day in the kitchen, drinking wine, listening to a Prairie Home Companion and hanging out with my family.  The only things missing were my brother, Steve and my kitties.  Happy baking!

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Served our challah with braised beef chuck roast and elk round steak with saffron risotto.

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