Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Brioche... or maybe its Challah

I wasn't going to post this because the first time I made it I didn't have internet and decided to try my luck with just adding milk, eggs, and ample honey to my usual bread baking. It wen't well, but really, what do I know about either brioche or challah? nothing. In fact, I don't even know if this technically brioche or challah! But after trying two different "award winning" recipes online that gooed themselves into mediocre unbraided bread, I have returned to this scribbled recipe and intend to stick to it.

...until I rediscover the one from a jewish holiday cookbook I checked out from the saint louis library once upon a time...

Note: when covering bread dough to let it rise, the tighter the seal the more moisture it will keep in. This is better. But even just a kitchen towel will "cover" the dough if you dont want to waste plastic wrap.

Dry ingredients: combine in your largest bowl:
250g white flour
200g country flour
1/2c oats (optional)
1 Tbsp salt

Wet ingredients: combine and let sit for 10 minutes in any little soup bowl:
1 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp honey, more if you like sweet bread!
~white sugar, brown sugar, and probably even maple syrup would work as subsitutions
120g warm water

Mix well, then add to the wet ingredients:
80g warmed milk
2 eggs
2+ tbsp olive oil

Using a wooden spoon or my preferred plain old fork, dredge a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the combined wet ingredients into the hole. Stir this, knocking in a bit of the flour at a time, until shaggy (meaning: just until the flour is incorporated, but don't worry about it being smooth or even or any of that.)

Leave covered for 5 minutes. Or don't, but it makes the kneading because it will be less sticky.

Pour it all, including extra flour, onto a clean counter and knead well, adding flour if it sticks impossibly to your hands and the counter. Once it becomes beautifully smooth and dense enough to hold a rounded shape, cover again and let sit in a warm place (oven with the light on is perfect) until it has doubled in size. Between 1 hour and two.

With oiled hands, knead the dough for another 30 seconds then shape. Either just shape into your bread pan and slice across the top a few times, or...

Braid: cut the dough into even pieces (3-7 depending on how you braid) and roll them out into long logs. Braid. I will not try to tell you how exactly to do this, but use lots of oil, and if the dough is too moist to hold its shape, dont bother.

To get an even braid on both sides, start in the middle and braid in each direction separately, pinching and tucking the ends together when you arrive.

Place on a sheet of oiled parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap, and let it grow for 30 minutes.

Brush it with butter, an egg yolk, or a spoon of honey mixed in another spoon of water if you want a nice brown coating.

Bake at 205ºC/400ºF for 25-30 minutes. Or 10 more if you think its not done yet.

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