Well, I've learned something this week: don't start a bunch of posts and assume that you'll have time/brainspace to come back and fill in the important details later.
Um... here's a picture of some bread! From a week ago. Bad blogger, bad!
I first tried my hand at challah a few years back, and once I did, I wanted to know where it had been all my life? I think that if you make it, you will also fall in love. I was told that the recipe comes from Beth Hensperger's book Bread. It has come to me through a chain of at least two other people, and I hope you will pass it to others.
I don't bother with the egg glaze. This bread makes the best French toast you will ever have.
2 packages (2 Tbsp) active dry yeast
1/2 C sugar or honey
1 Tbsp salt
5 1/2 to 6 C unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
1 3/4 C hot water (120 deg)
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Rich Egg glaze
Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)
1 Place yeast, sugar, salt, and 2 C flour in a large bowl. Add water, eggs, and butter. Beat hard with a whisk until smooth, about 3 min. Scrape sides of bowl occasionally.
2. Add remaining flour 1/2 C at a time with a wooden spoon. Continue beating until dough is too stiff to stir. Turn the shaggy mass out onto a lightly floured board. Adding flour 1 Tbsp at a time as necessary, knead until dough is smooth and elastic and a layer of blisters shows under skin. The dough needs to be a bit firm for free-form loaves.
3. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs.
4. Gently deflate dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into equal portions. Roll each section into a strip and lay 3 strips side by side. Braid, pinch ends, and tuck them under. Place on a greased or parchment-lined sheet (Braids can also be placed in loaf pans). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 30-40 min. Because of the eggs, this loaf doesn not need to completely double. It will rise a lot in the oven.
5. Brush the dough with glaze and sprinkle with seeds. Bake in a preheated 350 deg oven for 40-45 min, or until a deep golden brown. Carefully lift braids off of sheet with a spatula to cool completely before slicing.
Yield: 2 large braided breads
Rich Egg Glaze
1 yolk or 1 whole egg
1 Tbsp water, milk, or cream
Whisk together until combined
Also, I did my first two "crits" for critters.org this week. Off to a good start, I hope.