I feel like making bread is like making
babies Frankensteins. (Considering the whole process, seems like baby making is not the best metaphor). Like making Young Frankensteins. Please tell me you've seen the movie. If not, go watch it. Now. Well, finish reading this, then go.
(By the way, I just can't compare making bread with the real Frankenstein, I don't take myself that seriously.)
So, bread making. You have your pieces... your flour-legs, water-arms and different combinations for the torso. It can have eggs, oil, milk or just a pinch of salt. And once you have everything together, you need an infusion of life. You guessed right, that would be the yeast. You crumble it, put it in water and it's like giving electricity to Frankenstein. It's aliiiiiiiiiiiiveeeee!!!
Finding fresh yeast in Boston has proven to be a difficult task. Sure you can substitute for dry and create wonders, but I really wanted to try the real deal. I finally found some fresh yeast at the grocery store and wanted to work with it right away. Since my labmate was organizing a dinner party I offered to bring some homemade bread. And I decided to try making a Challah.
For those of you not familiar with it, Challah is a traditional jewish bread. It contains oil and eggs, which give it a soft, almost brioche-like texture and shiny top. The most popular shape for Challahs are three strand braids, although in Rosh Hashana (Jewish new year), the braid is usually shaped as a circle.
Raisins can be added to the bread, but I find it delicious plain. Toasted or not, combines equally well with sweet and savory stuff. And making it was really easy.
Let's go through the process together...
First, mix 1 yeast cake (17 g fresh yeast) with 125 mL (1/2 cup) of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar... and let the magic happen...
In a bowl, combine the foamy yeast mixture with 2 cups of flour (about 250 g), 30 mL oil (6 teaspoons), a pinch of salt and 1 large egg. Knead the dough until smooth and not sticky. If kneading doesn't do the job, you can add a bit more flour. Oil a bowl and let the dough rest for 2 hr, until doubled in volume or, if you have more time, overnight in the fridge, which is what I did.
Brush the challah with egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if you wish. Let the dough rise for about an hour or until doubled in volume. Believe me, it does double.
Bake at 350 F for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the surface is golden shiny brown. It is done if it sounds hollow when you tap it.
Sorry I didn't get to take any shots of the inside, but I promise it was amazingly soft with an almost brioche texture and a crunchy top. It was a complete success and I'm sure this is not gonna be the last challah I make.
Recipe adapted from here