I’ve been horrible about the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge: no book at first, then problems finding the right flour, then a lack of time, blahblahblah fishcakes.
No more excuses. I couldn’t find the right flour, but I had AP flour on hand, so I went ahead and made the BBA challah. I was instantly reminded of the mind-melting awesomeness of homemade bread. As you set out mixing the ingredients, you may think, “This is nothing but a tremendous pain in the ass I don’t have time for this why don’t I just buy some bread at the bakery.” You may think this right up until the moment that you slather some salted butter onto a fat slice of freshly baked challah, and then your attitude changes completely: “I Will Bake Homemade Bread Every Single Day Possible.”
Challah is a traditional Jewish sabbath bread. In Baking With Julia, it is described as “Eastern European brioche.” This is a good description of the specific recipe in Baking With Julia, as it calls for large amounts of eggs and butter, and is fairly sweet. However, from my understanding, a Kosher challah uses eggs, but not butter as it is supposed to be pareve, or neutral (and containing no meat or dairy). It is also meant to be sweet and made with white flour, essentially to make it special for Shabbat.
The recipe is from Baking With Julia is buttery and rich and tastes amazing just torn from the loaf. To be honest, I liked the texture of the BBA challah, but was disappointed with the flavor as it called for oil rather than butter, and this changed the flavor enough to make it a bit more bland. If you’re not concerned with whether the challah is pareve, then I would suggest using melted butter instead.
Simple braid for bread:
For me, this bread was, start to finish, 5 hours (mostly rising time, as most breads are), rising on a Saturday at home while getting other things done. It was out of the oven by 3 in the afternoon – just in time for tea. By 4 o’clock it was totally devoured with loads of butter. Hey, I didn’t promise that it would last – the very reason I’ve never tasted tomorrow morning’s French toast made with challah. Maybe next time I’ll double the recipe.