With respect to hydration, I think I've decided to tell myself, “You know what hydration you want, go get it.” Having set out to make challah, I dutifully followed a formula, as the ingredients rumbled about in the bowl, ploddingly worked by the dough hook (which I may say is doing a mighty fine job at mixing bread doughs, it is quite a surprise I must say. I'll have to put away the elitism of hand mixing for the present.), it was nothing but a pie dough without the liquid. Quite surprised I certainly was. After a few revolutions I decided to add some water, and if I were called to account, I'd probably say I brought the water up to around 50-55%. Not even having taken into account the oil and eggs that go into the mix!
I also discovered I am in desperate need of a spray bottle. That is, if I intend to practice my braiding and gain the practiced hands to do some decorative pieces for work. That was the intention for all this after all! But I'll say no more about that. All these braided doughs require a rather stiff consistency, which means dry, which means unfavorable conditions that are certainly accentuated by the climate I've found myself in. The air is a good deal drier here at 6000 ft above sea level. What was I talking about? Probably something unnecessary.
I've found without milk powder, or buttermilk powder or whatever I can find really, the white bread formula I did last week just didn't cut it. It wasn't toothsome like I like; like Chinese bread is. Not that I have any legitimate Chinese bread recipes, but that is why I have to feel them out until they're passable. So I go from one extreme to the other, from the soft white bread of American wonder bread companies to the not so American, super strandy challah, which I know is a good toothsome bread.
I just poured myself some Santa Cruz brand limeade. And as I was doing so, I was thinking to myself, “Well hasn't this been a little digression! We should get back to talking about challah.” But as it turns out, the few sentences I put down before said glass of limeade happened to be about challah! Fancy that.
Well the challah is in the oven now. It has got a whopping 3% of yeast! That is substantial, considering the aforementioned white bread formula, so called, “pain de mie” has only 1.6%, so challah is about twice as well yeasted as that loaf ever was. But one can't simply scan over numbers and make blind comparisons. There is something to be said for understanding, conceptual especially; when we take into account pain de mie is at 50% hydration, while comparatively, this particular mix of challah is at 50% or so. Hydration facilitates fermentation; while yeast is more abundant in this challah formula, the rates of fermentation might very well be equivalent! There is proportionally more fat and sugar in challah as well, so the slight differences in the yeast percentages after taking hydration into account are probably hand wavingly explained away by that. Actually scratch that, those are all lies. They're both at about 50% hydration, although there is more fat and eggs in pain de mie, so it might could be true, but the percentages are actually quite similar. So it appears that this particular challah formula is just well yeasted.
If I might drift back into a nostalgic haze, you know I actually can't remember why I was going to do that. But I was going to glow a little about how I egg washed the challah. I did it three times! The first time because I wanted to keep the dough from drying, the second time because it did, and the third time because I wanted it to dry before the loaves went into the oven. And thats very important! You should have seen how glossy the dried egg wash was on the unbaked loaves. It was positively the most spectacularly shiny dough I've ever seen.
Well I've probably rambled enough. My this limeade is delicious. Perhaps you've gleaned something of value from my meandering through the afternoon whilst mixing, shaping, and baking up a storm. At the least, you've seen a glimpse of, well of something.
My my, it looks like the challah got overbaked. Well you can see it anyways, but next time I'll have to amend the baking time, I'm going to say its closer to 15 minutes rather then 20 minutes.