Baking with Julia – Challah

IMG_4410Challah for everyone! Doesn’t looking at this bread just make you deliriously happy? No? Just me? I’m fine with that. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – bread is my favorite thing to make in the whole wide world. It’s so weird and cool and alive and it usually has so very few ingredients but so much flavor. Plus, toast. Toast is the single most satisfying snack I have ever come across.

IMG_4396Don’t you just want to lay your head down on this beautiful pouf of dough and take a nap??? Again, just me? I don’t believe it.

I made this challah on a lazy Sunday and like most good bread, it was a bit of a time investment. I ended up kneading it by hand because I just enjoy working with butter and egg doughs – they are just so dreamy and fun to play with. After I kneaded it for about ten minutes it had reached the right lovely consistency so I put it to bed for the first rise which took about an hour and a half. Then there was some fun braiding action and another rise of about an hour before baking. The great thing about butter and egg breads like challah and brioche is that you don’t really have to fuss over creating a steam bath or using a baking stone for them to get the desired crust since they’re meant to be a little softer. And they still look super-impressive right?

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If you want to give this a shot, you’ll find the recipe here on Lauren Groveman’s site and I think we both know you do. I hope you have as much fun as I did but I realize that I’m kind of a weirdo so the chances of that are slim to nil.

Tuesdays with Dorie – Irish Soda Bread (+ Challah)

So I went a little off-recipe this week. And I don’t know that it was 100% a good idea. I have only had one other soda bread in my life and it is really delicious, so based on my results, I’d almost say this was a failure. But I think there are a few things I could do to fix it. Now admittedly, it looks very pretty. I mean, I don’t think this is debatable. That looks like a good bread. But taste-wise, I was a little disappointed. This is what happened. I made this bread, challah, and the cheese souffle for French Fridays with Dorie all in one day. Big woo, right? I mean that’s really not a whole lot going on. I had the day off so it’s not like I was fitting it into a busy work schedule or anything, but what happened was I made the challah first. And the challah needed 9-10 cups of flour, pretty much depleting my stock. Why, you ask, did I make challah? I’m not Jewish, even though I’ve been told I “look Jewish” a few times. There are a number of really beautiful Jewish ladies (hello Natalie Portman!) so I take this as a nice compliment. I’ve actually never even had challah before. But I follow this blog called emmycooks and she had done a post on it and the night before this baking extravaganza I had a dream that I was eating just ginormo amounts of bread, so I had to make it. I’m sure you understand. So before I get to the soda bread, let’s talk about the challah.

This is a serious recipe, using massive amounts of flour and requiring 15 minutes of kneading (Madonna arms, here I come!). I don’t know why I was super drawn to doing this, other than the dream. A few months ago, someone asked me a strange question : If you had to eat your way out of a room, what would you want the room to be made of? My answer was bread. Not like Wonderbread, but amazing crusty, tasty bread and I think my dream might have been something like that. When I was younger, I could remember my dreams in super detail, but now I kind of just have impressions.  So anywho, I make this dough and knead it and it first looks like this:

But then after a few hours of just hanging out with Candy and the espresso maker, it looks like this!

I mean, doesn’t that look like you just want to lay your head down on it and take a nap!? It’s so pillowy and huge and awesome! So I was pretty enamored of this whole process and kind of left the soda bread till after and then I realized, “Shit, I do not have 4 cups of flour!” So I had some whole wheat flour and I thought I would do half and half. That seemed like a plan. Also berries were on sale at the store and I had a little half pint of blueberries that needed something to do. So I got all my stuff together while the challah was rising and I was feeling pretty good about things.

And after I mixed everything together I was still feeling like this was a good idea and a nice compromise. I mean, making all my Dorie stuff in one day, plus this other bread and I was making the recipe more healthy? Kudos to me!

Alas, pride cometh before a fall as they say and my bread was not really all that great. Turns out blueberries + buttermilk with no sugar = kind of a tart little bread we’ve got here. I should have definitely added some sugar. In fact, when I slathered a slice with butter and sprinkled a liberal amount of cinnamon sugar on it, it was pretty tasty. Without, it got this review from a friend “tastes like medicine.” Not my best work, to say the least.

But let’s all revel in the beauty of the challah once again, shall we? And if you want to make it, the recipe is here!

If you want to give the soda bread a try and not f*#% it up like me, visit one of our hosts for this week to get the recipe. They did this simple classic some justice, unlike me. Oh well. I hear that lemon loaf cake a’callin my name already and it’s still a few weeks until April. Catch you next time Doristas and hopefully it will be a little more successful!