Sunday, October 24, 2010

Challah Revisited

Please note, the corrected amount of yeast for this recipe for the home cook is 9 grams of dry instant yeast. I have revisited this recipe using the Hungarian Ring as shown. This proved to be considerably more difficult than the star. With any braid, including the star, the strands tend to rise against each other giving a more even loaf. With the Hungarian braid, the individual strands stand out. If they are ill-formed, they remain ill-formed throughout the rise and baking process.

Rolling out the 4-foot outer ring was also a task. I repeated had to stop and allow it to rest. I had used an overnight retard. Hamelman suggest that this makes rolling the bread easier. I hate to think what it would have been like without that rest.

Also, as you can see, I had some difficulty sealing the interior pieces to the outer ring. During the cooking process, they tended to release, stand-up, and then overbrown.

Yeast Calculation

In calculating the yeast quantities in previous postings, I overlooked the switch from fresh yeast to instant dried yeast when going from production batches to home batches. As Hamelman notes on page 57, 1/3 as much instant yeast is needed. Thanks to Paul Yumarama for pointing this out!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


This recipe was clearly a measure of my devotion to this project. First, I not a big fan of pretzels. I don't dislike them, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat one. Next, the whole lye soak was a royal pain. I had to track down and order food grade lye. I used "High Grade Sodium Hydroxide Lye Micro Beads" from Essential Depot (via These were $5 plus another $12 shipping. Add to that gloves and safety glasses to the total cost.

The dough was beautify, smooth and silky. Shaping wasn't a problem, but I found it much easier and quicker to twist them on the counter rather than trying to spin them. This seem a natural extension of rolling them out.

Dipping was another problem. I first tried a stainless pot with a pasta insert. Unfortunately, the pretzels stuck to the insert. I ended up using a slotted spoon doing the pretzels one at a time. Annoying, but with a dozen pretzels this isn't to bad. (Certainly, not a bakeshop techinque.) Next, I baked the pretzels on a baking stone only to discover that they bonded to the stone and had to be scraped off.

Actually, I made three sets of pretzels as can be seen from the picture. (Yes, I forgot to slash the prezels.) The one to the left is the lye soaked pretzel. For the one in the middle, I used a technique from Reinhart's lastest book. I soaked the pretzels in a solution of 8 tsp of baking soda and 2 cups of warm water. The pretzels on the right weren't soaked but had an egg glaze.

The lye soaked prezels were somewhat unevenly colored, but were much darker. The egg glaze, as you can see, gave the least color. I really didn't expect any real difference in flavor, just appearance. Although the difference was slight, there was a noticable difference. For fresh pretzels, I prefered the lye soaked pretzels. For day old pretzels (not nearly as good), I liked these least.

As pretzel go, these were quite good. But I'll stick to bagels or bialys.

Roasted Potato Breads

For this challenge, I made the original Potato Bread recipe and both of the variations, Rosemary Herb Bread and Roasted Garlic Bread. For the roast potatoes, I peeled russet potatoes, sliced them about 1 inch thick, tossed them in olive oil, salted and peppered them, and then baked them at 425 degrees until knife tender, about 30 minutes. I broke the potatoes into pieces, but did not mash them. The finshed dough had obvious chunks of potatoes in them, but these chunks were absent in the finished bread. For all three breads, I made fendu-style loaves. For all the loaves, I found Hamelman's recommendations of 40 minutes to be too long. Around thirty minutes seemed adequate.

For the Herb bread, I used closer to two grams of rosemary (per loaf) rather than three. This was sufficient. For the garlic bread, I used nine grams of roasted garlic, about three cloves. For these last two loaves, I upped the whole-wheat content slightly (to about 30%) to good effect.

These were all excellent, somewhat rustic breads. Shelf life was a bit on the short side, but okay.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


ALERT: The yeast calculation in this post is incorrect in tha tit doesn't account for the switch to instant dried yeast. See later post on yeast.

I've only made one pass through this recipe, so I'll update this entry once I've had a chance to go back and make the bread again. But I wanted to get a few things down while they were still fresh in my mind.

First, it appears the home recipe is off on the amount of yeast by a factor of three. The recipe calls for 3% yeast, and the numbers for US and Metric are consistent with this percentage. The home recipe uses 32 ounces of flour but only calls for 0.32 ounces of yeast (1%). In making the bread I used three times this amount and got a reasonable rise time. Again, this is a very rich dough, which is typically hard on yeast so the amount is not unusual.

The dough is quite stiff. I made the full recipe which was okay but a bit of a strain for my aging KitchenAid mixer. Since I've made Challah many times before, I elected to play with some of the braiding techniques in Chapter 9. I made the Six-point Star using the Method I for the six-strand braid and I made the Winston Knot.

I was a little annoyed by the lack of measurements for some of the braids (including the Winston Knot) and wish Hamelman had included recommend weights and lengths with each recipe. Still, the braiding went well. On the star, I made the rosette a bit too large and had a couple of star points that wanted to pull apart. And, with the Winston Knot, I didn't get the nice square knot shown in the drawing in the book. Nonetheless, I still got a reasonable looking bread.

The bread had a nice flavor but was a bit on the dry side. At the Artisian Bread Festival in Asheville last year, Reinhart mentioned that he had eliminate the egg-whites from his Challah because they have a drying effect. (And his latest Challah is the best I've had.) Next time around, I'll try this.

More to come...

Soft Butter Rolls

I made this recipe three times. The first time around, I made the rolls, little cloverleaf rolls, and the braids. The second time I made the hamburger rolls. The last time around, I made the cinnamon-raisin bread.

All three batches had a very nice flavor. At 1.33-ounces, I found the rolls a little on the small side but acceptable. It was noted on the Mellow Baker's site that the yeast measurements in the recipe are too low. If fact, they are off by a factor of 10. Although warned the measurements were off, I didn't correct adequately. Enriched breads need a lot of added yeast, and I didn't add enough so I got very slow rise-times. The bread will still work without the correction, but be patient.

For the hamburger rolls, I increased the size. Hamelman specifies 2.25-ounce pieces. Looking in other books, I found Reinhart uses 3.0-ounce pieces and Hitz uses 3.2 to 3.4-ounce pieces. I went with the larger sizes and was happy I did.

Finally, I made the cinnamon-raisin bread, again using too little yeast. Again, the flavor was great but the rise was poor and the rise-times were extended. Hamelman doesn't give measurements for the cinnamon sugar or the amount of raisins to use. I used about 3/4 cups of raisins, 2 Tbs butter, and 2 Tbs cinnamon-sugar per loaf. This seemed to work well. Overall, these were good loaves, but I'll stick to Reinharts spectacularly good loaves in the future.