This is what I woke up to this morning.
At 7am, it was 72' with a dew point of 70'. Normally I can see the full three miles across the valley to the Convent - Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso. Not today.Nasty isn't even a strong enough word for that. I snapped a few photos, watched The Boy go out and feed the chickens, and crawled back into bed. Maybe it would be better in an hour.
I was wrong.
Oh sure, the visibility was better. Instead of being a mere 100 yards, it was up to almost 2 miles. But the temperature was 78' and the dew point was now 72.5'.There was still no breeze to speak of. I DO have work to do, For Crying Out Loud.
First there is the deck box by the chicken coop. Flooding rain filled the inside bottom of the box, mixing with spilled seed, spilled feed, and ache/gag, spilled compost starter. It smelled of, well, use your imagination.
Of course the girls were happy with me moving the box, its deep dark underside being the lair for earthworms, ants, ant eggs, and YUM, potato bugs. It was a heavenly Sunday brunch for them.
I then managed one quick coat of paint on one side of the new coop screen door I am building and that was IT. DONE. FINISHED. WORN OUT! Even with the massive fan on in the barn, there just wasn't any air IN the air.
Doc and I both bailed on the great outdoors and headed in. Since the air conditioning was on in the house, bread would have no problem working on a good rise. Noodle making today is out of the question, but bread - no problem. (Of course on THIS kind of day, there was no way I was going to fire up the big outdoor wood fired oven. I'll save that for another day.)
Today would be a couple of nice large loaves of Challah. The girls supplied the eggs, and those of you with hens, know how quickly you can get up to your eyeballs with fresh eggs.
Let me start by saying that this is not my recipe, but it is one that I have been using for years and it makes a wonderful GIANT pair of braided, freehand loaves, or three very large bread pan loaves, or lots and lots of rolls. This is my 'go to' recipe from King Arthur Flour - Challah. I measure by weight, which is far more accurate for the measure of hygroscopic flour.
For a recipe note, I use a Professional Size 6qt KitchenAid mixer. I would NOT make this in the 4.5 qt. Even the 5qt is almost not large enough.
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) Flour (DO NOT use Bread Flour)1 cup (8 ounces) water (just warm enough for you to tell it's warm with your finger. When I had city water, I used bottled for my bread. There was enough salt and chlorine in it to negatively effect the yeast rise.)2 teaspoons instant yeast (I use FRESH live yeast and use 1.3 Tablespoons of that. It can usually be purchased by the pound at any large grocery store bakery. Simply ask.)
Mix the 1 cup flour, 1 cup water and yeast together in your mixing bowl. Let the mixture sit for about 45 minutes in a draft free, warm place. It will start to bubble.
All of above, premixed starter
3 1/2 cups (15 ounces) Flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
2 large eggs + 1 yolk (save the 1 egg white for the wash below)
Add the above ingredients to the starter and using your dough hook, mix together. You may have to stop after a few seconds and scrape down the bowl After a kneading of about 3-5 minutes, a smooth, elastic dough will form. I remove it from the machine and remove the hook. I spray the top with Crisco spray oil, coconut is my new favorite (no rancid odor or flavor). Cover the bowl and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it's doubled in size.
Now for the FUN part. Free form loaves, bowls, braided loaves, pan loaves, rolls, it is all UP to you!
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over once or twice. You aren't KNEADING it. You are simply letting out the carbon dioxide gas from the yeast, and reintroducing fresh areas of sugar food to the yeast. I make two braided loaves in pans. I divide the dough in half and put half aside while working with the other.
I divide that half IN half. (A quarter of the total recipe.) With a half piece, I form it into a smooth log shape and place it into a 9 inch loaf pan that has been sprayed with coconuts Crisco spray. The other half I divide into thirds. This is the braided top of the loaf. Roll out three snakes and braid, tucking under the ends. Very lightly moisten the top of the dough in the pan and adhere the braid to the top.
Repeat with the other bit of set aside dough.
To make a freehand braided loaves, simply take the whole batch of dough and divide in half. Divide those halves into thirds. Braid the thirds, tucking under the ends.
You can also make braids and tuck the ends under and place that into a loaf pan.
Shaping is up to your imagination and skill level. Have fun with it.
1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
poppy seeds (optional) (I have also used flax, rosemary, and sesame.)
Combine the saved egg white, the sugar, and the water. Brush your dough with this mixture, reserving some for a second wash. Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it's almost doubled in size.
Brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash (this will give the finished loaf a beautiful, shiny crust, as well as provide "glue" for the seeds), sprinkle with seeds (optional) and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 50minutes, or until the challah is lightly browned. Remove it from the oven, and cool completely before slicing.
***I find that I have to tent a piece of foil over the loaves for about the last 15-20 minutes to keep it from being overly brown, or burned.
I cook my loaves until they test at 200-210'.
Not only is this a fabulous dinner loaf, but an exceptional sandwich bread and as a day old loaf, make spectacular FRENCH TOAST!