I admit it, I´m a no-bread-machine purist. I love making bread, kneading it and feeling it get more elastic, and the whole sense of connection to the bread that you get, and I like that it makes me slow down, waiting for it to rise so I can punch it down and form it. (And I love punching it down - I admit I can´t wait for that moment!)
I missed doing that all last year, with the two bad ovens I couldn´t trust, but this year I have an electric oven with temperature controls, so I´m getting back into baking.
I decided to start with Challah bread, since it´s one of the easiest and least fragile types. I used this recipe, and it turned out perfectly enough that my roommate, Ludette, and I destroyed the first load within an hour.
5 1/2 – 6 c. flour
1 T dry yeast
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/4 t salt
6 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 c water plus 2 t
1. In a small bowl (#1), put yeast, 1 T sugar, 1/4 c water. Mix and let it stand for 10 minutes or until it bubbles.
2. In bowl #2 put all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar; mix them well.
3. In bowl #3 put all wet ingredients: water, oil, egg, and the yeast mixture after it’s bubbled; mix them well.
4. Mix everything together to make the dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour until you can handle it. Use your hands to mix and press the mixture until it forms a ball of dough.*
5. Cover with a towel, and let the dough stand in a warm place for an hour or an hour and a half until it doubles in size.
6. Punch the dough to let out the air bubbles (this is the fun part!).
7. Let stand for 10 minutes.
8. For traditional-style challah, separate dough into six even pieces, roll each piece into a snake either between your hands or on the table, and make two braids. Turn the ends under so they look pretty. You may need to keep a little flour out to keep them from getting too sticky. Or, weave them into any design you like. Place them on greased and floured cookie sheets.
9. Beat one egg in a small bowl. Brush both braids with egg. Let them stand half an hour, and then brush with egg again. If you like, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds after the second egg wash.
10. Let rise for an hour or an hour and a half until the loaves double in size. Be patient!
11. Heat oven to 375F. Bake for 22-26 minutes or until the tops turn golden.
My editions to the recipe: it took more than one egg to coat the loaves, so make sure you have more at hand, so you don´t have to run out at the last minute, during the biggest futbol game of the year, when all the stores are closed, just to get some!
Also, Challah should be sweet. Letting bread rise slowly (not in a warm room/oven as often directed) makes bread more chewy, sweet, and rise better. It´s cold here now, and we are without central heat, so it turned out amazing.
¨Press¨ is really unclear. I kneaded for about three minutes, on a floured surface. It doesn´t ask you to knead, but it seems like the thing to do here, and if I had kneaded more, it probably wouldn´t have taken so long to rise, cold kitchen or not.