Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy Challah Day!

As the seasons slowly change from summer to fall, I've noticed a shift in my food cravings. Tomatoes don't hold the same appeal for me as they did a month ago, and now I find myself eyeing the wild variety of squashes with appreciation.

My cooking is gradually starting to reflect this change, too, as less and less I fire up the burner under the canner and more and more I reach for the oven dial.

So it should come as no surprise that I'm about ready to slip into my fall and winter routine of baking bread on a Saturday morning. Right now, it's a little tricky to fit it into the schedule, what with visits to the farmers' market and my work at the Inn, but today I made the effort.

And though I'm not Jewish, what could be more appropriate for the end of Rosh Hashanah than to bake a loaf of challah?

I haven't made challah in many years, probably not since my 4-H days when I had the urge to try baking many different kinds of bread. But when I browsed my copy of King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, I stopped and lingered over the recipe for Whole Wheat Challah and decided I'd have to give it a whirl.

Since I'm out of local whole wheat flour, I did use local spelt flour for nearly half the flour in the recipe. I used local eggs, though the remaining ingredients definitely came from a little further afield. I also added an egg white glaze to the loaf before baking, even though the recipe didn't call for it (strangely enough) -- but believe it or not, that was the extent of my improvisations.

I threw together the dough, giving it a quick knead before pushing it into the refrigerator and heading to the Inn to make breakfast. When I returned home, I pulled it out and let it warm up, only to find it woefully sluggish. I kneaded it again, divided it, let the dough rest a little bit, and then started to braid it, figuring I had nothing to lose.

One piece, as always, came out a bit short, but I managed to weave a respectable braid, even though I haven't made anything but loaves and boules of bread in quite a long time.

I covered the loaf and headed out to meet the Southern Belle and my sweet little guy Beaker for a fun outing this afternoon. And when I returned home, lo and behold, the loaf had at last more than doubled in size. Huzzah!

The loaf baked while I started on dinner, and the fragrance fairly knocked me off my feet with its combination of sweet butter, rich eggs, and nutty whole grain goodness. I could hardly wait to pull the challah out of the oven!

Though I managed to finish cooking dinner without ripping chunks of warm bread off the cooling rack, I did slice off one end and slather it with double-cream Brie for dessert, paired with a semi-sweet pink Catawba wine that enhanced the flavors of both cheese and bread.

What better way to celebrate the holiday?



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