The genesis of this post lies in a very vociferous, yet intriguing discussion my friends and me had over lunch a few days ago. Here is what happened.
A few of us friends decided to catch up for lunch. After the first round of tipple and starters , we ordered the main course, Now that order was to take a while and so the manager courteously brought us a bread basket and some house dips. The basket had a nice selection; slices of baguettes, a focaccia, a nice spunky garlic bread and some herbed bread. And while I immersed myself in the combination of breads and dips, my friends got into a discussion on the virtues of bread; so everything from the evolution of bread to which (bread)goes well with what sort of curries and so on. The discussion was getting intense just to be interrupted by the arrival of the mains.As I made my way home I couldn’t but help reminiscing the breads discussion and ended up getting a bit philosophical about breads.
I have always been a breads person ever since I remember. Bandra, where I spent some part of my childhood, has plenty of bakeries that churn out bread 24/7. Even today, nothing excites me more than that heady, soul fulfilling aroma of freshly baked bread that permeates from a bakery. Its very difficult not to take notice. Personally, I love white breads, and I think that is how breads should be. Buttery, crumbly, chewy and sometimes enhanced with the goodness of eggs. Bread that draws it self to you, speaks to you. Yes, the virtues of wholewheat, multi grain are well chronicled but it would never match up to how soul satisfying a simple white loaf can be.
I have made breads earlier and I thought I must give it a hit again. The heart yearned for something more than just a simple loaf. I wanted to go through the process again and come up with something fancier. I went back and scoured the archives when I came across this recipe for Jewish Challah Bread by my good friend and food blogger Saee Koranne Khandekar. I knew this was the one. Now, I am told Jewish cuisine is sacrosanct and conforms to very strict laws on what can be done and what cant. However, I decided to play around a bit and add some garlic just to up the glam a bit. Saee cautioned me that it may not be Kosher once i added the garlic. But my heart was on it and I went ahead.
The entire process of kneading, proofing went off smooth and when the oven timer went off I almost had tears of joy.The dark tan telling me that it was done well on the outside and the hollow sound signalling that all was well on the inside. I couldn’t have been happier.
Isnt it true that the simplest thing give you the most joy in life.
Challah Bread (This recipe will yield one large and one small loaf)
- 750 grams flour
- 15-20 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast.
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 25 grams butter
- approx 500 mls water for kneading and some more for the yeast.
- black sesame seeds, for garnishing.
- Salt – to taste
- Activate the yeast, by dissolving it in the warm water along with the sugar. Leave aside for 5-7 minutes till frothy.
- In a sufficiently large vessel, combine the flour, salt and butter and combine gently
- Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, 1 whole egg and another yolk and knead till you have dough that is pliable and not sticky. You may need to add flour or water in the kneading process so go by the eye
- Place this dough in a bowl and cover it with a moist cloth to rise. this should take approximately 40 odd minutes.
- Once the dough has risen, give it a gentle knock. Add the garlic and knead again for 10 minutes.
- Make 3 equal parts of the dough and braid them to resemble a plait.
- Once done, leave it again for the second proofing. Approximately 20 odd minutes.
- Brush with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds on the loaves and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
- If you want to indulge, slather a generous amount of butter while the loaf is still warm..