Challah: A Tale of Suspense

Today at work I kept reading and rereading the Kitchn’s article on making challah—I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures. Having nothing to do tonight, I decided to make it; and in the middle of a yeast freakout, I decided to liveblog it. Behold. (This recipe is entirely the Kitchn’s; I would never dream of adapting a bread recipe.)

7:26 PM. I add 2 tsp yeast, 1 c lukewarm water, and a pinch of sugar to a small bowl and wait to see if it will froth.

7:27 PM. Start frantically Gchatting everyone in the world and asking them why my yeast won’t froth. Curse yeast.

7:28 PM. IT’S BUBBLING. Get extremely excited. (This is both a command and a statement.)

7:29 PM. It’s not really bubbling any more than it was thirty seconds ago. Perhaps this is a bad sign. DAMN YEAST. Should I start assembling the dry ingredients or not bother? Perhaps the Tale of Suspense will end here.

7:30 PM. I’ve just concluded that it frothed so much that the entire top layer of the bowl was froth, so I didn’t realize it was froth.

7:34 PM. Finish mixing the dry ingredients (4 c flour, 1/4 c sugar, 2 tsp salt).

7:37 PM. Create a well by pushing the flour mixture to the sides, and crack in two eggs, one egg yolk (separated by hand), and a quarter-cup of canola oil. (It said a neutral oil and vegetable oil freaks me out.)

7:52 PM. I made a “slurry” by whisking together the aforementioned wet ingredients, then poured the yeast mixture on top (which was REALLY frothy and cleary enjoying its life) and then mixed everything together until it had formed a shaggy ball:

I then turned it out onto a floured surface (first a piece of wax paper on the counter, but then I got rid of the paper and just used the counter itself) to knead. At first everything went excellently: the dough was smooth and soft and lovely, and I was calmly whacking away at it. (Ew.) (The way I knead is by folding the dough over, pushing it in with the heels of my hands, turning it, folding again, etc. I believe I got this method from the Joy of Cooking, or possibly another cookbook. It’s legit; I didn’t make it up. You can use it safely.) After the flour sort of ran out, and the dough was just sitting directly on the counter, things became unhappy. I think this is because I had very thoroughly scrubbed the counter right before this and it was still damp; every time I added more flour (which I was nervous to do, because I tend to vastly overflour my bread-type goods), the dough instantly and delightfully behaved. After I taste it, I can let you know if I used too much flour… Anyway, after about ten minutes, I stopped flouring, put it in an oiled bowl, covered it with my green kitchen towel, and put it in my Official Bread-Warming Spot, the chair next to the heater.

(Note: You’re supposed to add more flour during the kneading process as necessary.)

I will be back in approximately 1.5 hours. Now I will make an unexciting dinner. (I have been having unexciting dinners this week, thus lack of blogging about them. Ugh I really don’t want to make dinner. There’s no food here.)

8:23 PM. I am in the middle of eating lettuce out of the salad spinner and cooking home fries. Yum. (I have already sauteed onions in butter, and the potato pieces are now sauteing.) The kitty is missing. There were some bad noises coming from the microwave earlier. Note to self and the world: It is difficult to cook when you have no kitchen towel. (Also, I cleaned the counter, which was covered in dough. I wished I had a dough scraper and then felt bad for making fun of Jacqui when she said she needed a dough scraper the other day. Oops.)

8:36 PM. Eating home fries and fried eggs. Yum.

8:38 PM. Sort of wish I had done a better job of making these home fries. So much pepper, not enough paprika.

8:58 PM. I am full, and bored. Rise dough rise!

9:15 PM. I just looked at the dough and then informed Fitzpatrick (my foster cat) that “this is the most beautiful thing I have ever created.”

9:26 PM. HOW IS THIS WORKING?!?!?!? I just put the dough on the cookie sheet, divided it into three (uneven) parts (IT WAS GLUTENY AND STRETCHY!!! AAAAH!), and braided it. This is amazing. Woah. Now it is sitting under its dish towel in its spot by the heater. I had to move some furniture around because it now only fits on the coffee table, not the chair, and Fitz is now glaring out from inside his box because he is semi-barricaded in there.

9:44 PM. It is impossible to concentrate on anything while challah is rising nearby.

10:18 PM. I just looked at it. It is becoming big and fluffy and springy and puffy. And other good bread-type things. I am now preheating the oven. (I may or may not have just stuck my head into the oven and gone, “Ooh, it’s nice and warm in here.”) I am worried about my capacity to do an egg wash (brushing egg, in this case just the white, which I think is unusual, on something… that was a terrible explanation) without a pastry brush (a paintbrush except with rubber bristles) (sort of).

10:37 PM. The challah is in the oven, but the egg wash has gone awry. It spilled everywhere, including on the floor of the oven, the door of the oven, and the Mouse Danger Zone. It now smells burnt in here. I have turned the fan-thingies on. Alas.

10:39 PM. It smells like burning. I tried to clean the burnt egg from the inside of the oven with metal tongs. Do not recommend.

10:41 PM. Cleaned the egg out of the Mouse Danger Zone. Do not wish to discuss what I found in there. (Will say that there were actually no mice or … mouse products, though.) Smokey smell is making me very anxious.

10:52 PM. The smell has become less “oh-god-do-i-need-to-evacuate” and more “i-probably-do-not-need-to-evacuate.” Halfway through baking, more or less.

11:07 PM. Just looked at the challah. I said, “HOLY SHIT.” (It looks good.) (And it smells like Judaism.)

11:13 PM. I have taken it out of the oven and am speechless with pride and joy.

11:17 PM. The challah is fucking amazing and I am awesome in every possible way.

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5 thoughts on “Challah: A Tale of Suspense

  1. OMG this looks AMAZING. Can we make it when you come visit???!?!?!? I am super impressed. Also didn’t know you renamed the cat- how does he feel about this?

  2. Embarrassingly belated reply: fuck yeah, challah. I made good roast chicken the other night so now we can definitely pull off Shabbat dinner sometime.

    Also, thank you for reminding me that I too require a pastry brush.

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