First of all, Happy New Year (Jewish, that is; Rosh Hashanah) or L’Shana Tova everyone.
Empty nesthood is nice. One little issue, though, is that after years of scaling up recipes to feed a horde of growing baby dinosaurs, now that there’s just two of us — who are both trying to watch our weight, with varying degrees of success — it’s time to start scaling things down. DSS decided that he wanted to make a special dinner for tonight, the eve (or Erev) of the New Year. He’s using a cobbled-together recipe for a savory kugel, to which I suggested adding chunks of chicken, making it a true one-dish meal. My contribution is the challah.
For anyone who doesn’t already know, challah is an egg bread traditionally made by braiding the dough. On Rosh Hashanah, though, it’s also traditional to make the challah round. Last year my friend SH sent me a link on how to braid a round challah, so I had that part down. Now, about the recipe. Most of mine make way too much for two people. And before you get waxing rhapsodic over leftover challah, let me just say that 1) I like challah french toast as much as the next woman of valor, 2) it has enough calories for a week because 3) I have no self-control when it comes to challah french toast (any french toast, for that matter.) SO the only solution is to make a single, not-too-enormous loaf, so as to pig out once and be done with it.
I probably could have gone to my trusty Betty Crocker recipe and just cut it in half, but I felt like creating my own recipe. I wanted it to be rich, really eggy, and I wanted to include honey. I also didn’t mind doing the math:
I used several sources. I started with that old Betty Crocker recipe (calling for 2 packets of yeast and 7+ cups of flour.) Next I turned to my wonderful new book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. Just from the cover, I learned that the magic ratio for bread is 5:3 flour to liquid. Inside, I also discovered that the relationship between yeast and how much dough it can rise has more to do with time than amount (ie, if I have “too little” yeast, I just have to let it rise longer.) I also have my many years experience with bread baking, plus a few tidbits from the back of the yeast packet.
Ratios are by weight, not volume. I do have a kitchen scale, but it’s hard to use with a really big bowl. Besides, I don’t like to dump all my flour in at once, as the book suggests, since I like to mix by hand. So I’m going to stick with cups for the flour. Ratio’s chapter on bread also tells me that although flour’s weight varies with humidity, it’s safe to approximate that 1 cup weighs about 5 ounces. It also tells me that one large egg is two ounces.
Somewhere in my last half century I learned that sugar makes the yeast rise and salt slows it down. Betty Crocker tells me that 2 packets of yeast need 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tbsp of salt. Easy enough to halve those.
The yeast packet, Fleischmans Rapid Rise, tells me that, despite the fact that Betty says I have to dissolve it in warm water, I can just mix the yeast in with the dry ingredients if I make sure the wet ingredients are warm.
And I’m off:
ONE LOAF OF CHALLAH
1 packet Rapid Rise yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk (reserve white for egg wash)
1/2 cup milk, microwaved about 45 seconds
2 tbsp melted butter (pareve margarine, if you insist)
Honey (I think I probably added about 2 tbsp)
3 cups flour
Combine sugar, salt and yeast in small prep bowl. Lightly beat eggs and egg yolk in large mixing bowl; add milk and butter. Stir in yeast mixture and honey. Stir in flour one cup at a time. (I usually have to knead the last cup in.) Turn out on floured board; knead until elastic. Let rise 1-2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down; braid; let rise another hour. Brush with reserved egg white. Bake about 25 minutes in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees.
If you’ll excuse me, it’s time for dinner.