Challah: Baking in a Cooking Kitchen

Dinner: warm Sunday leftovers on greens with hunks of challah.

Apparently I am spoiled after living and cooking by myself. I had everything a baker could ever need: tons of giant mixing bowls, small ingredient bowls, plenty of pans, three sets of measuring cups and all the oils, eggs, sugars, salts and spices required to bake on a whim.

Guess whose kitchen has none of that? The one I’m in right now. The man has a $300 chef’s knife, but no  Saran wrap.

Serious effort required.

So this afternoon I found myself mixing challah dough with what was basically a wooden spork and a stock pot, like a  human stand mixer. Two-handed. I also had to use a liquid measuring cup for every ingredient, so I’m not sure I can ever replicate this exact bread.

Of all the breads I’ve tried, challah has been the most fun to work with. The dough is light, soft and squelchy, and there’s something really satisfying about making shaped bread instead of just a loaf. The finished product was airy and delicious, and will be great for sandwiches (grilled cheese?) and maybe French toast if I have time. The recipe, however, made a loaf about the size of Maryland.

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Challah, via King Arthur Flour
(I warned you, this will make a loaf so large that you laugh until you cry.)

(three 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 large eggs, room temperature
6 1/2 cups (approx.) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, for glaze
1 tablespoon cold water, for glaze
poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

See full directions here, abbreviated below.

–Stir yeast into water in small bowl, then cream sugar and shortening in very large bowl. Add eggs, beat til fluffy. Add yeast and 4 c flour, beat 2 minutes. Cover tightly for 30 minutes.

–Stir to deflate, while adding salt and 2 c. flour. Turn onto floured surface and knead (adding flour as needed) until a smooth, elastic dough. Put dough in large oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover, let rise 40 minutes.

–Turn dough onto lightly oiled surface, divide into thirds and roll swiftly with both hands to make three 20-inch ropes. Lay ropes on greased cookie sheet and braid, starting in the middle and braiding each end out. Pinch ends and tuck under. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. NOTE: make sure you leave some space at the end of the loaf. Otherwise, it will eat your pan.

–Beat egg w/cold water to make glaze and spread over rope. Sprinkle with seeds if desired.  Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Cool on rack.

–Nom.

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