Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rediscovering the art of bread-making

I once knew how to bake bread well.  I baked all our bread and it looked and tasted good.  But then decades went by and I lost that skill.

I’m determined to rediscover the art of baking homemade bread.  I decided to start with figuring out why my last few attempts at challah-making had resulted in loaves that had lost their braid and spread into big bread puddles.  They were tasty (especially fried in butter as we did during the power outage), but they certainly didn’t look authentic.

I decided to change several things when I started the most recent challah.  Instead of turning the oven on and off briefly to provide a warm space for rising, I decided just to put a hot tea kettle in the cold oven with my rising dough.  I used more flour.  I did the unthinkable (heretical?) and used 40% whole wheat flour.  Out of convenience at midnight, I braided the challah on a cookie sheet and threw the whole thing in the refrigerator to rise overnight.

When I got up this morning, my braided dough was plump and ready for the oven after a quick egg wash and poppy seeds.  The house was filled with that wonderful smell of baking bread as the cooking gave those braids a brown glossy look.

My husband had submitted the picture of our flat, braidless challah to a food Blogger contest, actually hosted by someone I had met through meditation.  I would be embarrassed if anyone knew I had baked it.  I may try to convince him to substitute a picture of my latest whole-wheat challah, which although it is somewhat a half-breed is a lot healthier.


Blogger Kristin said...

I'm baking bread, too! Though, it's all new to me. I've been working on anadama bread with cornmeal and molasses but I'm almost ready to move on. Challah's still beyond me though! The braids you made are gorgeous.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't made my own bread for many years. I've gotten complacent about it, partly because I'm blessed to live in an area with an abundance of fantastic locally-made breads. I do miss the smell of baking bread in my home, though! Yours looks delicious!


1:52 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

That bread looks fantastic! And delicious!brointh

2:40 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Oops, the clicker on my trackball isn't working. That was my word verification that apparently didn't get clicked successfully.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

It's amazing that you wrote about this today, because we planned to make challah bread this afternoon. (We postponed until tomorrow because of a kitchen plumbing emergency.) Do you know if it's essential to use bread flour, as opposed to all-purpose flour, in making challah? (I guess if you made yours with partly whole wheat that suggests some flexibillity.)

7:42 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- This time I used a mixture of bread flour (white) and whole wheat flour. I wish I had used a little more sugar. This recipe called for 1 tablespoon, whereas the last one called for 1/4 cup. I think somewhere in the middle would be best. I can't wait to here how your challah turns out! A little saffron will give it a nice yellow color.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

I accept donations of homemade bread, with or without braids.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Sam Fromartz said...

I'll meditate on that. Nice work Barbara -- I had no idea it was you.

5:33 PM  

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