Wednesday, March 12, 2008

First let us visit the origins

Here in The Kitchen we sometimes have to accept that at one time we baked shitty bread.  This being said, i urge all up and coming bread bakers to stray away from recipes called "egg braid" when all you really wanted was a sexy, velvety-smooth challah like all your Jewish mothers used to make.  This recipe produced a lifeless, tasteless, and downright disappointing doorstop of a braid.  This is the kind of bread you let your dog eat just to watch it be thrown up in a cascade of therapeutic destruction.
So here's the recipe!

1 Pkg.........Dry Yeast
5 Cups........AP Flour
2 Tbsp........Sugar
1.5 Tsp.......Salt
.3 Cup........Butter
1 Cup.........Tap Water
1 Pinch.......Saffron (optional in my opinion, i don't think a traditional recipe would call for it)
4...............Eggs (Use one yolk for the glaze and the remaining eggs and egg white for the batter)

1...............Egg Yolk
2 Tbsp.........Sugar
1 Tsp..........Cold Water
.5 Tsp.........Poppy Seeds (to sprinkle)

Prep. [15min.]
Using a large bowl mix yeast, 2 Cups flour, sugar, salt, and butter.  Gradually add water and beat for 2 minutes.  Add saffron and 1 egg white (reserving the yolk).  The batter will be thick.  Beat for 2 minutes.  Add the remaining flour (3 cups approx.) slowly, one cup at a time until the dough cleans the side of the bowl.

Kneading [8min.]
Knead on a floured work surface until the dough is smooth and elastic.

1st Rising [1 hour]
Return dough to the mixing bowl, which you should have prepped by cleaning and greasing it, and turn the dough to coat with grease on all sides (this prevents a crust from prematurely forming).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place (this is very vague.  if you want this process to go faster try to get a room stable at about 80-85 degrees.  If you want better development of flavor and can wait around all day then try to get a room stable at about 70-75 degrees).  You want the dough to double in bulk before preceding.

Shaping [25min.]
Punch down the dough and knead out any bubbles.  Divide the dough in half.  To braid, divide each half into three equal pieces.  With your hands roll the dough pieces into 12" lengths.  Lay three of the rolls parallel on a large floured work surface.  You want to start the braid in the center to remove as much tensile stress from the dough as possible.  When you reach the end of the dough pinch the ends securely and repeat for the other side of the braid and then repeat the entire process for the other three rolls.  If you need more instruction on how to braid anything from dough to your mom's pretty hooker hair visit: How to Braid.  Now place the two braids on a baking sheet and combine and beat together the remaining egg yolk with the other glaze ingredients and carefully brush the braids, getting every nook and cranny.  Don't forget to sprinkle with poppy seeds!  (a good hint for a total glaze is to reserve some of the mixture for halfway through the baking process.  the braid will, hopefully, rise up some and unglazed dough will be showing.  just reapply the mixture to these areas for a fuller glaze).

Second Rising [1 hour]
Don't cover the braids for the second rising.  Place both braids (still on baking sheets) at whichever room temperature you've decided to use until doubled in bulk.

Baking [400 degrees / 30min.]
Don't forget to reglaze the braids if necessary.  The braids will test done using the toothpick method, or as i always prefer with a probe thermometer set just above 200 degrees.  The braids should be golden brown.  Let this cool on wire racks until room temperature before breaking the bread.

So whomever wants to try this recipe out should let me know if it was as delicious as you'd hoped.  Maybe i missed something in my prep but i contend that this is just a poor recipe in a world full of superior challah recipes.  The smoking gun is my other challah recipe and pics found here.

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