life's full of scary stuff, you know?
changing jobs. moving cross country. trying a new yoga instructor. working late and coming home to ravenous kittens.
know what isn't scary? yeast bread! i know! counterintuitive!
yeast feels complicated. active dry, instant, proofing. bread seems so onerous to make. so much kneading and rising and kneading and rising.
but let me tell you . . . it just ain't that hard. and the smell of fresh baked bread in your house?
PLUS, a slice of fresh-baked bread? makes the rest of the scary-ass world that much easier to take on.
let's talk yeast. unless you go hard-core baker on me, you're really only going to need to know about two types of yeast: active dry and instant.
as the name might imply, you don't need to do anything to instant yeast to make it work. you can just add it to your flour, water, etc and be good to go.
active dry yeast requires proofing – that's because the little granules of dried yeast have a coating that needs to be dissolved. all this means is that it should sit with some warm water and sugar to get nice and foamy before you add it to your flour.
but do you want to know a secret?
i've TOTALLY just added active dry yeast to my water at the SAME time as the flour. no waiting, no foaming. and you know what? my pizza dough turned out just fine. all 15 hundred million times i did it.
but proofing your yeast can be pretty cool. check this out:
right!?! so foamy!
here's a few other yeast-related tips. if you're going to bake more than once, don't but the yeast packets. buy the cute little jar of yeast. do it! just store it in the fridge. because at some point i'm going to introduce you to jim lahey's no knead bread and this book and it will change your life just like it changed mine, and you need way less yeast per loaf than comes in the packet.
got it? good. let's move on to why this bread is different than all other breads.
(did you get that reference? i know jhill should have!)
the short answer is eggs. eggs and honey. both inside, and a nice coating of egg wash on the top to make it shiny and brown. mmm.
i could have (slash did) eat this dough with a spoon. it was, erm, spoon-able, because i was using my iphone for the recipe and apparently i need new glasses cause i put in four cups of flour instead of six.
and then, honest to god, dumped it out onto my silpat and thought about kneading it. before i realized. i. am. a. moron.
what is my problem with flour??
after some successful detective work and assistance from my able sous chef, the creeper, i got back on track. there are few kitchen mishaps you can't solve, folks.
this is what challah dough should look like in your kitchenaid, should you happen to have a kitchenaid. if you don't, no biggie. you probably (hopefully?) already have equally effective kitchen tools: a wooden spoon and your hands.
this is what challah dough should look like after you've kneaded it. not forever. just give it a little love. let it loosen up and get a little smooth. fold it in half and knead it out with the heels of your hands, maybe 20 times.
why do you knead dough? you're developing the gluten – the protein that lets the dough get elastic. you want elastic dough because that will allow the gas bubbles to develop during the baking process, giving you a light fluffy loaf of bread.
this is what challah dough will look like after you've gone off to that scary yoga class for a few hours.
why do we let dough rise? well, it helps continue to develop the gluten, but it also helps develop flavor in the bread as the yeast gets busy. it develops gases that stretch and flavor the dough. which sounds, frankly, disgusting, but let's all just remember how yummy bread is.
now we're going to braid the dough. this also isn't as scary as you think it is.
the link below offers easy instructions on how to do this, but i used the smitten kitchen method for a round loaf because it felt more intuitive to me.
are you ready to go conquer some yeast bread? it's totally worth it. i made two loaves, and each was eaten straight up by friends and coworkers. i had enough dignity to at least cover some of my slices in butter and jam. but if i make it again, this is destined for some top-notch french toast, maybe even like this.
Ima's Challah Bread
I changed nothing, so find the recipe here.