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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sweet Thyme Challah

when i was a kid, i had a best friend named Lisseth. she had the most glorious long curly hair that her mother pulled back into a braid, and it would float down her back. to say i was jealous is being kind. i had stringy straight hair, not fine but definitely not thick. and to add insult, my uncle Nick decided one day to play barbershop and cut my hair. i don't think my mop recovered for years. i looked like a disheveled kid with uneven layers that uncle nick tried to pass off as new wave. so my early years was not full of colorful berets, bows or sashes in my hair. on the contrary, i was dodging uncle nick's scissors. when my sisters finally arrived, you best believe i braided the shit out of their hairs. french braids. fishbones. i curled. i crimped. there wasn't a hairstyle i didn't try on them. now that i'm on my own and they're too annoying to hang out with, i've found a substitute: challah. who'da thunk braiding dough would be so cathartic? plus the kneading of the dough brings such pleasure in general. i may not braid hair anymore but now when the mood strikes me i take comfort in knowing that i can just whip up a batch of challah bread and my craving is satiated.

added bonus: the results of this particular recipe is my favorite. Nuria did the braiding honors this time. we added a smaller braid on top of the base, to give the loaf rise. it gave the bread height but also, i think fluff and softness. due to my tempermental oven i hawked the baking process a bit, and i'm glad i did. it came out golden and just ... lovely, soft and welcoming, but sturdy. kinda like a long, thick braid flowing down the back of a young girl.

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Sweet Thyme Challah adapted from Cooking Light

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 tablespoons honey
Dash of saffron threads, crushed (i used thyme)
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour divided (i ran out of bread flour and ended up using about 1 cup of whole wheat flour) ***i ended up using more than what the recipe called for
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds (i used thyme leaves)

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Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; stir in honey and saffron threads (or thyme). Let stand for 5 minutes. Add melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and egg; stir well with a whisk.

Add 2 3/4 cups flour to yeast mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. (actually, i ended up putting in 3 1/4 cups)

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft). ***in the end i used about 3 1/2 cups of flour total.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

Punch dough down. Shape dough into a ball; return to bowl. Cover and let rise an additional 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, on a lightly floured surface, roll our 3 portions into a 25-inch rope with slightly tapered ends. Place ropes lengthwise on a large baking sheet,; pinch ends together at untapered ends to seal. Braid ropes; pinch loose ends to seal. With the final portion, make a small braid and put on top of main base. Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine 1 teaspoon water and large egg yolk, stirring with a fork until blended. Uncover loaf, and gently brush with egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle evenly with fresh thyme leaves. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

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makes one loaf, about 12 slices. calories per slice: 157

today's song: Fisher, Breakable



10 comments:

  1. Hey, this looks great. I'm not good at braiding hair, so I'm not good at braiding bread dough either. That's why all of the Challah I have made is in loaf form.

    Like the addition of the thyme.

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  2. That looks so good. I want to know the warmth and goodness of freshly baked bread.

    Please come live at my house so I can eat some of these yummy things you make, hahaha =)

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  3. Beautiful ... :) one of these days I'm going to get over my fear of bread ...

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  4. This is just about the prettiest loaf I have ever seen. Making challah is something I have been dying to try. I'm so inspired! (p.s. loved Baltimore over the 4th weekend! thanks for your tips!)

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  5. Thanks...enjoy family story like this, get warm-cozy feeling! Love the smell of bread... Fab weekend*

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  6. leela, i've received a few tweets about youtube videos that demonstrate how to do 3 strand braids, and even up to 6strands! i'm a visual kinda person so i'm thinking these videos will help a lot. i'm a loaf kinda girl too and that's why i added the smaller braid on top, to give the bread some height.

    christy, you should give this recipe a try, it really is easy! and then you'll be able to know first hand the warmth and satisfaction of homemade bread.

    skm, hopefully it'll be a day that'll come soon. :)

    elizabeth, thank you! so glad you enjoyed bmore.

    lenore, thanks. homemade bread + childhood stories = warm&fuzzy. :)

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  7. Lan, that is absolutely gorgeuos. Simply stunning! I'm so impressed by your culinary adventures and their accompanying narratives; thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

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  8. anonymous, thank you so much, i am so touched by your kind words.

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  9. Thanks...enjoy family story like this, get warm-cozy feeling! Love the smell of bread... Fab weekend*

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