Last month I neglected to credit the author of the recipe used for my maiden challah making experience: The one and only Melissa Clark (IG @Clarkbar) from the oft-referenced New York Times Cooking website.
This untraditional loaf called for olive oil, fresh squeezed orange juice as well as a bit of orange zest. Because I'm slow on the uptake the orange flavor surprised at first bite; stil, the bread itself was delicious and texture - lovely. All in all, we called it a very solid effort on my part. Although the strong orange attributes threatened to overwhelm my palate’s expectations, I couldn't stop eating it, neither could marvelous Mia who shared my feeling about the citrusy presence.
The following week, I decided to work with the same recipe, with my own adjustments: Omitting all things orange and replacing it with honey.
To replace the one-half cup of orange juice I made a mixture of one-quarter cup each warm water and honey. The warm water helped melt the honey (briefly) allowing it to distribute a little bit evenly. Of course that didn't last for long as the water cooled and the two began the separate next time the honey also gets a little heat.
I also reduced the sugar called for in the original recipe by 50% since, you know….honey.
The resulting dough failed to rise as much as anticipated.
(As a matter of fact, maybe it did rise and I just used a bigger bigger bowl? Dang, I gotta keep notes of these things!)
After the requisite three to four hours of rising time, handling and manipulating the dough was a very slippery process. Though incredibly wet, this very stretchy dough, weirdly enough, was not sticky. I managed to get three reasonably uniform strands so after braiding and let it rise a little more - just under one hour - before sliding it into the preheated oven.
Perhaps the adjustment significantly increased the required baking time. After the prescribed half hour bake time the pale braided dough on the baking sheet begged for more time.
Turning off the oven as the new potatoes finished roasting (yes, Friday was also carb night in our house) I returned the half-baked effort to the middle shelf.
It stayed in for at least 30 minutes, maybe an hour - I began drinking by that point, so who knows?
My confidence in this second attempt started off so low, I'd purchased an emergency baguette to serve with dinner - just in case.
With Marvelous Mia by my side, we withdrew the finished loaf from th oven and simultaneously realised this just might be good!
It appeared we had ourselves a mighty fine loaf! And can I just tell ya?
It was AMAZING
This week, I plan to play with the same components, but change the characteristics like warm the honey, as I mentioned before. This bread had wonderful flavor. It was both rustic and ethereal. The flimsy dough actually yielded a firm - but not rock hard - crust, probably because I left it in there for so long. And the bread's interior landscape had a heft that was reminiscent of a truly rustic challah.
This is the stuff of which bread dreams are made.