Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hidden Talent

Last night I couldn't fall asleep.  You know those nights?  When you are tired because it is midnight and it is raining outside and cool in your room but warm under the covers, but for some reason your mind just won't shut down?  My reason was that I had a song stuck in my head, which I finally announced out loud to He-man.  Because I'm not very considerate.  But I was also pretty sure he wasn't asleep yet either, which he wasn't.  He-man responded quicker than lightning with a "me too!" exclamation of surprise.  Turns out Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a ring on it)" had been running through his head at the same time that "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog had been running through mine.  Yes, weird song selection, I know.

Neither of us said anything more for a couple minutes until I heard He-man clear his throat, and then in a perfect Kermit voice, proceeded to perform "Rainbow Connection" as we lay there staring at the ceiling in the darkness.  In the almost six years that we have been married, I don't know that I have ever heard He-man do an impression.  But it was both hilarious and awesome.  I joined him in song on the last line, giggling through the lyrics, then we both drifted off to slumberland.

One of my hidden talents is bread-making.  Not that it is hidden from you of course.  But most people who only know my mostly-mild-mannered self would be surprised to learn that I make bread.  Or bake cookies or sew aprons or try to write young adult novels.  See, Wonder Woman is my domestic goddess, creative diva secret identity.  But by day, I am the very type-A, corporate powerhouse, business suit type.  I have friends who scorn the idea of wearing a ruffled apron and baking as the "costumification of the 50's housewife". This is because I have a Career - the kind that took long, hard hours through grad school to achieve.  The kind of career where He-man sometimes says that he should be a stay-at-home-dad, and nobody I work with would blink an eye.  It causes me to feel very conflicted sometimes.  Which is one of the reasons why I started this blog, I guess - so that I could have an outlet for my creative, old-fashioned, dreamer personality to break through.   

Anyway, I found this recipe for Mama's Challah Bread on Good Things Catered.  And since I having been trying new things and I had never before done a braided bread, I decided to try it.  Again, it didn't look perfect - one side ended up a lot bigger than the other - but the texture and flavor was really fantastic.  And next time I'm betting I can get the braiding technique down pat.

Mama's Challah Bread

2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 3/4 Tbsp active yeast
2 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs (2 for dough and 1 for egg wash)
7 cups all-purpose flour

Mix 3 Tbsp flour, 2 Tbsp sugar and yeast in a medium bowl, then add 3/4 cup warm water, and stir for just a few seconds, then set aside to rise and foam (about 10 minutes). In another bowl, whisk together brown sugar, oil, and 2 eggs. Add proofed yeast and another 1 1/2 cups warm water, then stir to combine. Add salt and 3 cups of flour, stirring to combine. Add 3-4 more cups flour and mix everything with wooden spoon until it is too thick to mix with spoon.

At this point, transfer dough to floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Keeping hands floured, add small amounts of flour by hand when dough gets sticky. Knead until dough is smooth. It should not be too firm or sticky. Form into a round and place in a very large, lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover bowl with a tea towel and place in warm, draft-free place to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Dip fist into flour, very gently punch 10-12 times to punch out air. Knead again on floured board about 5 minutes, add a bit of oil to bowl again, form dough into a round, then return to bowl, cover, and let rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Punch down again, and knead into a round.

Gently divide round into 2 loaves by pinching the round in half and squeezing. Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment. Place 1 loaf aside in bowl. With remaining loaf, divide into 3 pieces and roll each into a rope. Braid on lightly floured board and roll out, fatter in middle, skinny on ends of the braid. For me, at least, this was easier said than done and it took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it. Pinch ends together and tuck under. Repeat with other loaf. Place loaves on prepared baking sheets. Make egg wash by combining remaining egg & a bit of water, and quickly beating with a fork. Brush egg wash over loaves. Bake 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely before serving.

This bread made spectacular French Toast the next day. It was also a good stand-in for garlic bread that night.  I just cut the loaf in half length-wise, spread both halves with butter and sprinkled them with garlic bread sprinkle.  Then I put them back together, wrapped the loaf in aluminum foil and placed it in a hot oven until the butter had melted and the bread was hot throughout.

I debated whether to mention this, but is it just me or does braided bread sometimes remind of you of a rattlesnake tail?  Maybe its because I only took photos after I had already eaten half the loaf.  I just can't resist a piping hot slice of bread with melting butter.  Oh well.

Gotta dash.  Ciao.


  1. I have not been brave enough to try this out yet. Someday maybe....maybe I'll just live it through you! It looks great!

  2. Great job with you challah bread! It sounds amazing :)

  3. Just made a baked french toast with challah bread for nice would it be if next time I make my own bread! Looks wonderful!


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