Getting Holla with Challah

This week’s recipe is Challah. I was excited about this because my family loves soft, squishy bread. They’ll eat whole grains and crisp crusts and sourdoughs, but give them a soft dinner roll or a pillowy loaf and they’re in heaven.

I’ve made Challah before and I should’ve known better. I started the recipe at 1:00pm on Monday, planning to have a loaf to eat with dinner (or, worse case scenario, toast for the next morning). Two hours into the first rise, it became clear to me that not much was happening. My cold kitchen, combined with the amount of eggs and butter in the recipe, kept the yeast working at a slow pace. It was 8:00pm by the time I shaped the loaf.

I’m glad I read the directions, since they said to braid the loaf from the center out. I think this technique ended up with a more even loaf. I wonder why my braid looks nothing like the picture in the book. You can tell I do not braid anyone’s hair on a regular basis. It’s probably good that I had a boy.

So, it’s 10:00pm. I have to get up for work tomorrow at 4:30am. My loaf still looks exactly the same as it did two hours ago. What to do? I stuck it in the refrigerator and baked it when I got home from work on Tuesday. The fancy baking term for this is retarding the dough. It is a technique that is supposed to give the yeast more time to create flavor compounds that improve the taste of the final bread. I don’t know if it made a big difference, but I do know that I had some pretty good bread on Tuesday night. Sometimes good things DO come to those who wait.

Was your loaf good? How does your family feel about soft, squishy bread?