Sunday, January 31, 2016

Peter Reinhart's Challah Bread

I've been making bread for my church for a long time, and it's usually challah bread.  It's sweet and flaky and tastes good in small pieces.  This week, I decided to try out a new challah recipe, by Peter Reinhart.  It calls for eight (EIGHT!) egg yolks, and while I try to be generous with the communion loaves, that's a lot of eggs to sacrifice for two loaves of bread.  So this will probably be a special occasion challah.  It's definitely worth it though!

Also, my lovely assistant is none other than Little Bread Dude!

For two large loaves, you will need:

2 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
8 egg yolks (keep one egg white for an egg wash later)
5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
7 1/2 cups (or 964g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons water (for the egg wash)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the water and yeast and let sit for five minutes to proof.

2. While you are waiting, separate your egg yolks if you haven't done so already.

3. Add your egg yolks, oil, honey and vanilla extract to your yeast mixture.  Whisk to combine.

4. Add the flour and salt to your bowl and mix using your hands.  Let the dough rest for ten minutes.
Checking the scale for when it hits the right number of grams - the only ingredient I measured in weight, not volume

For Little Bread Dude I placed a folded hand towel under the bowl to sturdy it as we mixed and kneaded

5. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and stretch and fold a few times.  Let it rest while you clean out your bowl and oil it.

6. Transfer the dough back to your bowl and rotate it a few times to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl and let your dough rise for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

7. Punch the dough down and remove the dough to a floured surface.  Using a knife or bench scraper, divide the dough into six equal pieces.  Usually I weight the pieces but this time I just estimated which resulted in one huge loaf and one small one.

Sometimes you need to drum on the dough pieces

8.  Roll each piece into a ball, then using your fingers, stretch the ball out into a long coil.  Fold three strands together at one end, then braid them together gently.  Fold again at the other end of your braid.  Repeat with the other three strands.

9.  Transfer your braided loaves to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Make an egg wash using the egg white and two tablespoons of water by mixing them vigorously with a fork, then brushing the top of each loaf with the egg wash.  Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let rise again for about 30-45 minutes.

10.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Remove the plastic wrap and brush each loaf with the egg wash again.  You can discard the egg wash now.  Sprinkle the loaves with the seeds.
I like a lot of sesame seeds, since so many of them fall off when you slice into the loaves

11.  Put the loaves in the oven and bump the temperature down to 350 degrees F.  Bake 20 minutes, rotate the pans and bake another 15 - 30 minutes until they sound hollow when thumped and/or the inside of the dough registers 190 degrees F using a kitchen thermometer.
These breads don't look as golden brown as usual, but they measured 190 degrees F and passed the thump test  I think it's because half-way through baking, my husband placed a ceramic plate above them, reducing the convection heat transfer and limiting their ability to brown.

12.  Take the breads out of the oven and let them cool for an hour before slicing them.

If you want to learn more about my baking adventures with Little Bread Dude, check out my tips on baking with kids post.

As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tips for baking with kids

Someone wise once said, "kids spell love T-I-M-E."

Lately, I've been combining two loves by baking bread with my little guy.

Little Bread Dude has always clamored to cook with me in the kitchen, and now he's old enough to really feel like he's making a contribution.  It's not always easy, quick or clean to have him "help," but he gets so much satisfaction out of it, and I'm able to see him getting better and more confident.  Since baking with him, I've also gotten more relaxed and am able to enjoy the process.  He helps me see things differently, such as how sometimes your rolls are actually a drum kit:

This is a recipe we made twice this week, since Little Bread Dude has been off school due to Snowzilla.  He decided he wanted to make bread for his friends at Sunday School, picked the recipe and helped with almost every step.  Along the way, I cataloged some tips about baking with kids.

BTW, the recipe I used was Peter Reinhart's challah, which you can find the recipe for here.

Tip #1:  If your child is small, use a bench or step stool so they feel like part of the action.  Aprons also help.

#2: Pick a recipe with a high yeast content (I'm talking one yeast packet or about 2 teaspoons of yeast per loaf).  That way, the bread rises more quickly and dramatically, both during the fermentation period and in the oven.  Kids like instant gratification.

#3: Pick an enriched dough recipe.  Half the fun of making something is adding lots of ingredients.  A dough with egg, milk, or butter (or all three!) is more fun than a lean dough with just flour, water and salt.

#4: Use volume measurements, not weight measurements.  I usually like to weigh my ingredients because it's cleaner and more efficient, but that doesn't always work when you're baking with kids.  It's more fun to dump everything into a bowl then to carefully calibrate a scale.  Luckily, this challah recipe only uses cup measurements and tablespoon measurements, so you're not getting every spoon and cup in the drawer dirty.  Just measure each ingredient into the same dirty spoon; you can wash it later.

#5: Prepare some of the ingredients ahead of time.  Little Bread Dude is five years old, which means he has an attention span of about 15 minutes.  In order to keep things positive and fun, I make sure his contribution only takes about that long.  I get the ingredients out and set them on the counter ahead of time, and if there's an ingredient I know he doesn't like preparing, I'll do it first so all he has to do is dump everything into the bowl.  For example, he doesn't like breaking eggs (this recipe requires a ton of egg yolks).  So I'll separate the eggs and put them all in a bowl for him to dump.

#6: Recognize that there will be mess.  Accept it.

He doesn't like dirty hands.
#7: Remember, for kids the enjoyment is in the process, not the outcome.  Enjoy your child discovering something new.

#8: It won't always be perfect. It won't always be the way you do it.

#9: Share your creation with others.  One of the things I want most to impart to my kids is generosity.  I am so proud that his first thought when he wanted to bake something was to share what he made with his friends.

If you have any other tips for baking with kids, be sure to share them in the comments.  Thanks for reading!