2 Bakes- A Big Mess O' Challah and BBA Artos
Haven't had much time to post over the past week due to, well, life; but I have had time to bake! Twice!
The first batch was a real doozy. My wife and I like to bake a large batch of Challah every few weeks using a full 5lb. bag of flour. "Why so much?", you might ask. Well, as Orthodox Jews, we use Challah every week at the traditional Friday night and Sabbath (Saturday) meals. For these meals it is customary to have two whole loaves, at least one of which is cut up and eaten (sometimes a lot more depending on how many guests are present). If we provide the Challah for both of these meals that usually adds up to about 3-4 loaves a week. Luckily we tend to rotate these meals with friends and so usually don't use this much Challah in one week. But it's always good to have a few loaves in the freezer since we usually don't have time to bake every week.
The second reason we do such a large Challah bake is that, in the Jewish tradition, when a large amount of flour (approx 5lbs.) is used to bake bread a special is blessing is said and a small portion of the dough is separated from the whole. See here for more details.
Anyway, since we've been married (two days shy of a year!) we've been making 100% WW Challah using a recipe I got from a cousin several years ago. The bread usually tasted good but the texture varied, sometimes dry, sometimes moist, but always quite dense, with low rise and oven spring. Only once I started doing a little research, mainly on TFL, did I realize why we were getting such subpar results- I was using an AP recipe and simply substituting 100% WW, without adjusting any of the other factors! Whoops...
And so I was really excited this time to have the foresight to choose a recipe that was not only formulated specifically for 100% WW, but that also required more skill and nuance.
I chose the Slow Rise WW Challah recipe from Maggie Glezer's A Blessing of Bread, using the formula for a full 5lbs. of flour. This was my first attempt at bread that requires long bulk fermentation and proofing times, which I was kind of nervous about.
The recipe calls for a small, firm pre-ferment, to be made 8-12 hours before the final dough. I didn't realize it beforehand but once I kneaded it together I was like: "oh, this is a biga!" It was my first biga so I was pretty excited. Here it is:
And after a 12 hour fermentation:
After kneading the final dough and achieving a windowpane (I got an even better one a few minutes after this)...
...we left it for a bulk fermentation of about 4 hours. After shaping and 2-3 more hours of proofing we baked. (I forgot to take pics of all the middle steps, sorry). Glezer says to bake at 425F for about an hour which just seemed way too hot to me so I monitored it closely and adjusted the temp as I saw fit, Somewhere between 375 and 400. And these are the results:
After cooling we put them all in the freezer. We meant to take one to a friend's this past weekend but forgot:( so I don't yet have a crumbshot or a description of the taste, but I'll edit once I do.
Overall I enjoyed making this bread. The final dough felt really nice, especially in comparison to the thick, dry WW doughs I've made in the past. Even my wife was impressed, despite her astonishment over the fermentation times ("We have to let it rise for how long?!"). My only issue is that there was very little oven spring, especially with the free-form loaves. I don't know if this was related to proofing or perhaps my shaping techniques but it wasn't the end of the world.
One Challah issue I can use some advice on is how to determine the amount of dough to use for different braiding styles. For instance, Glezer writes that this recipe makes 7 equal sized loaves, but what if I want to make a combination of loaves and rolls? Or big loaves and smaller loaves? Is theres an appropximate weight that people use for different size braided loaves? And is there a difference between, say, a 4-braid and 6-braid in terms of dough weight or is the difference just in how many ropes I shape the dough into?
My second bake was more straightforward in some ways. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm trying to bake my way through BBA, as many others have done. This week was Artos, the second formula in the book. I baked this bread for a brunch with some friends. Overall it came out really well and everyone who partook enjoyed. My biggest issue was the dough, which was soooooooooooo sticky. I tried to work with it but kept having to add more flour until I got a nice smooth, tacky texture. Looking back I think I may have added a little too much liquid due to my being a little too tired to weigh them precisely.
My first boule came out pretty well, though I think I can definitely improve on the surface tension. Here it is freshly glazed:
Reinhart says the loaf can be glazed immediately, even before cooling. However, after a few minutes the glazed crust started to get a little soggy and warp:
Not sure if this is normal or if it indicates an issue with the shaping. Because of time constraints I had to bake this loaf on Thursday for brunch on Sunday. I wasn't sure how it would freeze with the glaze so instead I tried something that I read about on TFL in terms of preserving freshness- I stored it in a bag together with an apple. The bag was probably a bad idea, as it accumulated a little condensation. I think the apple definitely helped, though the loaf was still somewhat dried out in the middle:
Also, the crust separated from the crumb, which is the same issue I had with the Anadama bread, though here I'm not sure if it's related to shaping or if it also has something to do with the glaze.