Holla for Challah: My Adventures in Breadmaking

August 23, 2009 at 12:18 am 10 comments

Braiding the challah...

Braiding the challah...

What started out as an innocent craving for a sandwich turned into a daylong project of breadbaking and mayonnaise whipping. The process made me realize how much we take sandwiches for granted as a quick and easy lunch option. But I did discover a plus side to the extra work — kneading bread is great exercise.

No Knead to Panic
Deciding what kind of bread to make was easy for me.  Challah’s been my fave for a long time, and my friend Lauren’s mom has a 40-year-old recipe (clipped from the New York Times) that I was dying to try.

But I was also a little intimidated by baking my own bread. My cooking is, well, rustic, as Julia Child would say.  I definitely couldn’t tell you how many teaspoons of anything I put into the pot. It’s a dash of this and a dash of that.  Breadbaking is a science, though — measurements are key, and shortcuts can be risky.

I didn’t panic, though, because I knew I had great resources.  First, Lauren’s mom had some helpful tips to add to the recipe: If you stick your finger in the dough, it should come out clean; You know the loaf is done if you knock on it, and it sounds hollow. (Bonus: I also learned that most recipes are designed to yield two loaves because it’s tradition to have two challahs at Shabbat meals.)

Beyond that, I had access to Jeff’s ridiculous cooking equipment (I may have used the Stand Mixer to help me knead the bread towards the end) and his extensive cookbook library. I referenced The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (and summoned Jon) to help with braiding the dough.  Secret: Before you even let the dough rise, you need to be able to stretch a piece till it’s paper thin (almost see-through) without it breaking — then it’s ready. So how’d it turn out?



A Hollow Challah!
Nobody was more surprised than I was when I pulled the loaf out of the oven looking perfectly golden brown.  The best part?  When I gave it a knock, it was hollow … AND when I measured the internal temperature of the bread, it was exactly 190 degrees (a tip from the book).

I admittedly haven’t tasted my loaf yet.  But at this point, even if it doesn’t feel like eating a deliciously eggy cloud, the important thing is I’ve built up my confidence as a baker.  I might still be on the outs with pizza, but I have a growing respect and understanding for dough.  Now to eat it quickly before it goes stale…  La Chaim!  (Hebrew for “To Life!”)


Entry filed under: Bread, Preparation. Tags: , .

Getting Fed With a Little Help From My Friends An Ode to Condiments

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. shiwanis  |  August 24, 2009 at 10:18 am

    UPDATE: I tried the challah, and it’s DELICIOUS. You know what the best thing is since sliced bread? Fresh, homemade bread. Holla!

  • 2. Her  |  August 24, 2009 at 10:51 am

    mmmm…looks good Shiwani!

  • 3. sudha  |  August 24, 2009 at 11:11 am

    if it goes stale i have a fantastic challah french toast recipe that we could throw together this weekend!

    • 4. shiwanis  |  August 24, 2009 at 5:13 pm

      Challah french toast is where it’s AT.

  • 5. amy  |  August 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I am so impressed!! I need to try some of this!

    • 6. shiwanis  |  August 24, 2009 at 5:14 pm

      I’m whipping up some butter tonight, so you should try the 2 together…

  • 7. kuang  |  August 25, 2009 at 11:26 am

    i heart your blogg doggs.

    i think i’ve been doing the same thing, with the exception of instant coffee.

    what’s the first meal going to be once you’re out of rehab? spicy?


    • 8. shiwanis  |  August 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm

      Have you been doing it on purpose? Because one thing I realized was I was pretty close to not eating out much anyway, so it seemed like a natural leap. I could go for some sushi right now, though… Mmmmm.

      • 9. kuang  |  August 26, 2009 at 3:59 am

        Not on purpose, I’d BITE THE CRAP OUT OF SOME SUSHI RIHT NOW. But there are very few restaurants in town that serve more than plantains and beans and some-animal-probably-goat stew. Having had enough plantains for a couple lifetimes, we buy from market, and cook at home most of the time. Whenever i go to the village, we have to bring food and cook as well.

      • 10. shiwanis  |  August 26, 2009 at 10:05 am

        Haha oh yeah, duh, I forgot that you’re not at all near a city right now. Very cool though. Have you heard about that blog where this couple only spent a dollar a day on food? I think you might appreciate it give your experiences: http://onedollardietproject.wordpress.com/.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


August 2009
    Sep »

Most Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: