Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BBA Challenge Week 6 — Challah

Sunday wrapped up week 6 for the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge group. If you're interested in learning more about the challenge, Nicole at Pinch My Salt has created an incredibly helpful FAQ here. Why not bake along with us? Here's how.

I know some challenge bakers expressed dismay at yet another enriched, eggy bread, but I was very much looking forward to Challah, the next bread on the list. I've made it a number of times in the past, most recently using the formula from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

While I've been happy with the ABin5 challah, this was by far the best I've ever made and my favorite bread of the challenge so far.

Anadama was so different from anything I've made which made it interesting. The brioche dough was unlike any other and fun to shape, but not something I see myself making very often. The bagels were so tasty and I impressed the hell out of myself by pulling them off, but I still came away with, "Next time I'll", something I did wth nearly all of the breads.

But this challah. It has me saying, "This is perfect, just at it is." Soft, ever so slightly chewy, flavorful, lovely to look at and delicious all on it's own. Although a smidge of strawberry jam takes it to a delightful other level. I can see using this dough to make cinnamon rolls or sticky buns. But when I saw Joelen's challah post, I had a real revalation — this is the PERFECT dough for hamburger buns. I know a few challengers used the brioche for buns, but I actually perfer the taste and texture of the challah to the brioche.

The dough is gorgeous to work with and easy to roll and shape. I decided to divide the dough in half based on what I'd read from those baking ahead of me. Apparently it made a huge loaf. I believe them! I had two good size loaves out of mine. I did triple strand braids for both, but tried two differnt braiding techniques. For the first, I started at the top and braided to the end. For the second, I started in the middle and worked out to the ends. I think the second way produced a better shape. Traditional challah is supposed to be narrow on the ends and plump in the middle and the middle-to-ends technique held that shape much better. Don't you think?

Left: Braid from center Right: Braid from top to bottom

I gobbled up most of the first loaf all by myself. Dwight helped a little, but I was pretty piggy about it. The second loaf is in the freezer—I didn't want it to get stale and I was too greedy to give it away. It's destined for french toast, and I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that.

I can honestly say that THIS is a challenge bread I will make on a regular basis. I loved it! Why not try it yourself? Pick up Peter Rienhart's book here or at your local library. Go. Now!


  1. I have to agree - I absolutely the love the challah. I am also thinking it would be perfect for hamburger buns. It's so sturdy. I'm sure it would hold up beautifully. Your challah looks amazing, by the way. I love eating it with jam, too.

  2. Beautiful. Mine was rather bland. Not sure why. :)
    Great job and nice baking along with you,

  3. I'm just imagining you sitting in the corner with your challah and jam, telling Dwight to back off! BWAHHAHA! They look yummy! The thought of the french toast is making my mouth water!

  4. Mmm could go for some Challah toast right now! Looks wonderbar!! Happy Baking!!!

  5. I agree. I loved it too. I made one big loaf and it was gone within 24 hours! Dangerous. :-)

    Thanks for showing a side by side of the braid started in the center and the braid started at the top. Very cool!

    (The bagels totally amazed me too. I kept opening the refrigerator and looking at them while they were retarding)

  6. Your challah looks perfect! I love the last pic of the challah toast with jam. YUM.


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