Monday, October 20, 2008

Double-Braided Delicious Bread

I've always admired people with great hair. You know the ones. They could be in shampoo commercials because their hair always looks so perfect, sleek and shiny. Mine is not that way. The best adjective I could think of to describe my hair is 'woofely.' And somehow when the line was forming for the "What To Do With Hair" pamphlet, I was off in line somewhere else, probably at a bakery. I'm pathetic at coming up with new hairdo's so my hair is always the same. In a ponytail for working out or straight down for daily wear. Boring.

However, I do have one hidden hair talent that I perfected in the 80's and people are always amazed by. I can French braid my own hair. In the back. Without a mirror. It's not that hard, it just takes some practice and not obsessing over whether or not it's perfect. But it never fails to produce a gasp of "You can do that yourself?!!"


This month's Bread Baking Babe's project was a lot like that. The Challah loaf is gorgeous and looks like you've slaved over it for hours, but I was surprised at how simple and easy it was to make. And the double braid presentation gives it a spectacular showy quality that will make people gasp in amazement, "You made that yourself?!!"

Plus, as a bonus, this recipe makes two loaves. That's one to enjoy with dinner and one to give away. Or one for now and one to save and have the next day as French toast. It makes fabulous French toast.

So, don't fear the braid. Give it a try. And after you make and post it, send the link to Sara of I Like to Cook, our hostess kitchen of the month, and she'll send you a Bread Baking Buddy badge to proudly display on your site. Your friends will be amazed.

And be sure to check out the spectacular successes of the other Babes (the links for their pages are on the right side of the page).

Thanks, Sara, for such a great recipe!



Challah

from The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook

Makes two loaves

5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups flour, unsifted
3 TB sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 package dry active yeast
1/2 cup butter, softened
pinch powdered saffron
1 cup warm water (120-130'F)
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp cold water
1/2 tsp poppy seeds


Combine 1 1/4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in the softened butter. Stir the saffron into the warm water until it dissolves. Add a little at a time to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer and medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally. Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Blend the single egg white and the other 3 whole eggs into the batter. Reserve the single egg yolk. Stir 1/2 cup of flour into the batter and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Blend in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it once to grease the top. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until double in bulk (approximately one hour).


Flour a pastry board lightly and set the dough on it. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 2 pieces, using 1/3 of the dough for one piece, and 2/3 of the dough for the other. Divide the large piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 12 inch ropes. Braid the ropes together tightly, using your fingers to press the dough together at the ends. Divide the smaller piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each of these into 10 inch ropes and braid tightly. Place the smaller braid on top of the larger one and seal the ends. Repeat this process to form the second loaf.

Place both braided loaves on a greased baking sheet. Mix the reserved single egg yolk with the 1 tsp of cold water and brush the top of the loaves with the mixture. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Spray two pieces of plastic wrap with cooking spray and lay sprayed side down over the loaves. Let the loaves rise until double in bulk in a warm draft free place (approximately one hour).

Bake in a 400' over for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on wire racks.


34 comments:

Ilva said...

I can see that you are a pro! I don't know how you did it but your pics look so romantic!

Lien said...

o Lynn I stand gasping here too... can you french braid your own hair??? I have long hair (always the same too) and tried to do that several times, but I just can't do it. (can't even do it neatly at my daughters hair I'm afraid!) so I'm glad Sara made this challah a three braid (twice) and not a 6-braid or something. ;-)
Your loaves look beautiful, golden and wasn't it a great recipe!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Gosh Lynn you always make me gasp! My mom French braided my hair when I was growing up and it was always a marvel to people. She always thought it was more a marvel that she could get me to sit still long enough to get it finished ;)

And Ilva's right your photos (is it the lightening) do always look romantic. Something that daughter taught you;)

Chavi said...

These loaves look beautiful. I'm an avid challah baker, I bake it every week for the Shabbat, but I've never braided like that- the double decker does have a unique effect. If you're brave, try braiding with six strands. It's not that difficult once you get the hang of it and they come out lookin' stunning!

Sarah said...

gorgeous braided challah...it has me dreaming of french toast! :)

görel said...

French toast!! I didn't think of that -- I'll have to bake challah again soon, no doubt about it. Very good-looking loaves you've got there!

VeggieGirl said...

Since I just posted about my first attempt at baking yeast-containing bread (and it was a challah, no less!!), I'm now even MORE ecstatic to view your new post (since I'm always looking forward to them) - your braiding skills are uncanny!! Nice work on this month's Bread Baking Babe's project :0)

SarahBaylessPhotography said...

I totally can't braid anything. I'm so pathetic. But I will try making this bread I think.

Arundathi said...

Beautiful looking loaves! And the pictures are great with the subtle lighting - does look romantic! :-)

Gretchen Noelle said...

These look gorgeous! Love the double braided double loaves! I am sure this will be a fun recipe to tackle!

Arundathi said...

that looks gorgeous! :-) the BBB sounds like lots of fun!

Maria said...

Braided breads are always beautiful and they taste good too:)

Aimée said...

Lovely challah, Lynn! I am bookmarking this for the holidays--I believe it freezes well, eh? ( All written with my hair in a french braid-no kidding!)

RecipeGirl said...

I've always had hair that could be french braided and have never been very good at it (sadly!)

You certainly braided this bread beautifully. Bookmarked for sure!

Melinda said...

Lynn, they look fabulous! Gorgeous!
Do you use your extra 'mother arm' to French braid your hair?
That is a real talent!

Sara said...

Hee hee, you are so talented, a braider of hair and bread!

Baking Soda said...

You can do that yourself? And bread too! Love your pics and the braids look so great.

Hmm I have the hair (very stubborn, mind of its own hair) but not the dexterity..my sis has and she could do it herself as well. Grrr! Always begged her to do it for me and then I turned and my hair slid out of the braid again.

Monique said...

Can you come over and do my hair...and my bread too?
You're a talent!

Marysol said...

I've always loved the look of braided bread, and yours is so impressive looking.
But Lynn, I'm most impressed by your ability to braid your own hair. I was a hairdresser back when the dinosaurs ruled the earth, and I loved doing all the fancy braids on my clients with ease, however, braiding my own hair was/is always a challenge.

LyB said...

I'm horrible at doing my hair, horrible! That's why I keep it really short! :) The challah looks so impressive. I've wanted to try that for a while, along with a few other things. So many recipes, so little time!

kickpleat said...

this looks spectacular! amazing job :)

Peabody said...

Your braiding is gorgeous!

skinnymum said...

looking at your beautifully braided challah, reminded me of France, and the romantic moments with my hubby there!

thecoffeesnob said...

I can braid my own hair too- used to practice it while watching this really long running serial tv show every night while i was 16. You're right- it's really not hard and just takes some practice but people are always surprised.

The braids in the bread look incredible! Now that's something i'm never gonna be able to braid however many times i try :)

eatme_delicious said...

What a gorgeous braided loaf! I've been in love with the look of challah ever since I first saw it but have yet to actually try it (eating it or making it).

Heather said...

mmmmmm i looove challah! this looks delicious! i love the pictures :) nicely done!

Gigi said...

Lynn I would let you french braid my bread or may hair any day! The bread looks amazing!

Rose&Thorn said...

I am going to make this today, been wanting to make a good challah for ages, and this does look very easy.

Jennifer said...

I am OBSESSED with challah :) Seriously though...I live in an area that is known for the bakeries that make challah...I hope to do a "challah tour" soon.

Beautiful pics!
-Jen

Chelsea said...

Maybe I need to make some bread after spending my nights baking cakes and bars. Might be a nice change.

When I told my mom I figured out how to French braid my own hair, she said "It's about time". I need to meet your friends.

Jacque said...

Simply gorgeous!! There are no other words to describe your bread. WOW :)

P.S. I can totally relate to swimming in a sea of recipes, lol.

Jacque said...

Simply gorgeous!! There are no other words to describe your bread. WOW :)

P.S. I can totally relate to swimming in a sea of recipes, lol.

SteamyKitchen said...

So perfect looking!! I've only made challah once and it ended up looking so lopsided. my braids were uneven!

Hanaâ said...

Wow! Gorgeous. Love the perfect symmetry and color. Great job!