Monday, November 21, 2011

More Dough Play

I've mentioned previously that I want to add some variety to possible answers to the often-asked question "What should I eat?"

Costco bagels were a big hit, so I want to try making some.  In my search for the best recipe to start with, I came across the English muffin instructions, so gave them a try, as shown here last week.  The other night, Hubby and I were watching America's Test Kitchen, and they made French Toast (a very popular breakfast and late-night snack choice around here) out of toasted challah.  Of all their testing, they decided it had the best texture for absorbing the milk/egg mixture without getting soggy.

I also found out that our usual couple of eggs and a tablespoon or two of milk was way off of the "correct recipe" for dousing the bread for French Toast.  They said the standard recipe is 1 cup milk and 3 eggs, which they changed to 1 1/2 cups milk and 3 egg yolks, plus other ingredients.  That recipe can be found in the recipes from their episode, Lazy Day Breakfast.   But back to today's topic...

When the baking bug hit yesterday, I began researching challah.  My aim is make whole grain challah, but having never had challah in my life, I thought it best to start with a more traditional recipe.   For that I turned to my friend, Caroline, who has shared her baking projects, including challah, on the Gardenweb forums and on as "Trailrunner."   I found her recipe (*See note below) in an old GW Kitchen Forum post, and also emailed her along the way for tips and consultation.

I made half of her recipe, and the dough came out a little dry.  It was not as smooth and elastic as it should have been.  I'm not sure if, while talking to Prince Go-for-it as I mixed, I mis-measured the water, or if it was my flour, the changing weather, or what, but my dough was a little on the dry side and a little hard to deal with.                                                                                                                                  
Left: Just mixed and ready to "Autolyse" (let the flour absorb the moisture).
Center: The dough just at the start of kneading.
Right: Just after kneading, in an oiled bowl, ready to cover & rise.  Should be smoother, like a baby's cheek...Either kind!

It was nice to remember I had the option to use my Wolf oven's proof mode on a chilly evening, so I didn't have to guess about rise times.                                                                                                                                                                                       

Not used to hand-kneading any more, I think I got my aerobic workout with the 12+ minutes of kneading and the braid-strand rolling.  Caroline said the project should take me 3 hours, from start to finish, but with fighting the dough, and first-timer's lack of efficiency, it took me more like 4 1/2.                                                                                                                                                                        
Left: Dough had been weighed & divided in 3, then 1 of those 3 divided into 3 smaller sections
Center: Rolling the 3 strands for braiding... about 18" long
Right: 3 strands pinched together, ready to braid

This time, I divided the dough into 3, then only 1 section into 3 smaller ones to start shaping, while leaving the other 2 sections undivided.  
The loaf on the right got 20 minutes of rise time
whileI finished the other 2...
So I had to move it to another pan and bake it first
Next time, I'll divide all the dough into balls for the strands, so they can rest a little before I start to shape them.  It should make the dough easier to shape and decrease time in between completing each loaf.  This will prevent the first loaf getting half its rising time in before the others are completed.                                                                                                                                                                            

The smell of this bread, while baking, is heavenly!!!  The butter?  The egg?  I'm not sure exactly why, but it is AMAZING... and brought princes and princesses from all over the house, wondering what was baking.  The first loaf was almost gone by the time the other two came out of the oven.  
Wash of egg and half & half

So, all in all, I think it was a success, and the difficulties have not dissuaded me from trying again.  I can more easily add flour if I end up with a dough that's too wet, than I can remedy a too-dry dough, so I will start with less flour next time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Some of my kids dislike sesame seeds, so I sprinkled
these 2 with poppy seeds

I still want to get this recipe 'just right,' so that I can truly understand and know the quality of this particular bread, before trying some of the whole grain options I found elsewhere on the internet.  
Texture might be better with moister dough.

Also, I will make 2 loaves instead of 3 out of this recipe, to get better sized slices for that French Toast!

* Caroline has reviewed the recipe I used and noted that she's changed the amount of water she uses since sharing that one.  She now uses 4 cups of water for 13 cups of flour.  So I should've used 2 cups for this half-batch, and she believes I'll get much better results doing so next time.      
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