With January over and 2015 in full swing, I’m officially back in New England for my *last semester of college*. Unbelievably terrifying. I think the weirdest part is how quickly that happened. Although plz kill me if I become one of those grown-ups that’s all, “four years? that’s nothin’! It just keeps getting faster…” My thoughts on becoming this someday. I can already tell these next few months are going to be insane. I’m designing costumes for a show that goes up in three weeks (SJdnaksjdjkasbdjLBAsJGhb) and then jumping right into sets for a show in April. So we’ll see how that plays out. I’ve decided I’m going to try to make at least one recipe to blog about a week, because honestly, this space feels the most important to me. Which is strange to think about, as it’s just a webpage. But I like having something to really care about; it helps me wake up in the morning almost as much as knowing the sooner I get up the sooner I will have coffee. I’m going to ride out senior spring dealing with a combination of actually important things and things that seem important right now, but don’t really matter in the long run. Examples? I made a chart because that’s more fun than homework.
Did you actually read it? It’s okay if you didn’t, no need to enter the randomness that is the inside of my head. Back to food: I’m so excited to share this post today, as it was a huge personal triumph. Emily and I got together pretty much the moment we got home for winter break to make challah, something we’ve seen Molly Yeh do a million times perfectly. We figured it was about time we took a whack at it. After all, how hard can in be to make the bread of our ancestors? Answer: not as hard as we thought, but definitely time consuming. There are moments where you have to let the bread do it’s thing without bothering it, so there were a decent amount of Netflix/hot chocolate breaks in between creating our masterpieces. We also let the dough proof overnight in the fridge just to break the process up a bit. But then that meant we had to let it return to room temperature for a while right before baking, so that was another lengthy break. So Emily watched me take a million more prep photos and then face-palmed as I changed exposure and tinted shadows. (Side note: I’ve now realized when I’m making something for the blog it takes approximately 2.3 times longer than it would normally because of all the stopping and picture-taking). As we kneaded and braided and egg-washed our breads we kept going back and forth on how we thought they would turn out. Maybe if they don’t rise properly they’ll still taste the way they’re supposed to? If they look this good, it doesn’t even matter if they taste weird! Do sesame seeds add flavor or just look pretty? All in all, it was a very eventful experience. And oh yeah, the bread came out tasting AMAZING. Make it yourself. Make it right now. You won’t be sorry!
Challah (from Food52 with notes from Becca & Emily, makes 2 large loaves)
Note: Challah can be made in an electric mixer or by hand. We did it in a mixer, so I’ve only included instructions for that. Follow the link above for all by hand directions!
1 1/2 cups warm water, divided
1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast (we figured that if the packets of yeast actually had pictures of challah on it we were on the right track)
6 cups + extra* all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup honey + an extra tablespoon for eggwash (optional)
2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
4 eggs + one yolk for eggwash
sesame seeds (optional)
Put 1 cup warm water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle the yeast over top, mix just to combine, and leave it to proof for five minutes. While yeast is proofing, mix flour, salt, and 1/4 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend on low speed. In a separate bowl, mix remaining water, honey, oil, and eggs. When yeast has finished proofing, add it to the flour, then immediately add wet ingredients. Mix on medium-low speed, just until combined, about 30 seconds.
Switch to the dough hook and begin to knead on low speed, making sure to incorporate what’s at the bottom of the bowl with a spatula if the dough hook misses it.Knead until smooth and no longer sticky, adding extra flour with as needed, 7-10 minutes *we ended up using a lot of extra flour, the dough was extremely sticky. Add it sparingly but often and you should be golden!
Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Set each in a large oiled bowl, cover both bowls with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. This should take about 2-2.5 hours. We let ours rise in the refrigerator overnight to break up the process; if you go this route just remember to take it out of the fridge first thing in the morning so the dough can fully return to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Separate each mound of dough into three equal balls (six in total). Roll each ball into a log almost 1-foot long. Braid the logs together to create your loaf. Food52 braiding tip: For the nicest-looking braid, do not pinch the top edges of your logs together before braiding; simply place one log over the next and braid until you reach the bottom, then pinch those edges together. Then, flip the unfinished loaf the long way, so that the unfinished edge is now at the bottom and the loaf has been flipped over and upside down. Finish braiding and pinch these edges together. This way, both ends look identical. Tuck the very tips beneath the loaf when braiding is finished. Repeat with second loaf.
Transfer each loaf to its own parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet and leave to proof for about an hour. Make the eggwash by mixing the extra egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon honey. Brush over loaves. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds (or both! or everything bagel seasoning because dreams do come true) Bake 20-22 minutes, until are golden and baked through. You’ll notice that there are no pictures of the sliced bread. This is because it was SO GOOD the loaf literally did not make it to daylight, there were only a few meager pieces left the following morning when nice photo lighting returned. Use your imagination to see the insides. Or better yet, make one yourself!