Summer Pudding II, Part A: Challah Bread


Author’s Note: Summer Pudding I hasn’t been written yet. Don’t bother looking for it. Summer Pudding II starts below 🙂
Hello ladies and gentlemen! After slaving away the past three days, I am proud to present to you a twist on the classic British summer dessert, the Summer Berry Pudding. Unfortunately, the whole unabridged process involves baking a loaf of bread then assembling the dessert. Because of this length, I am splitting the entire dessert into two blogs. This is part one, on how to make Challah bread. The blog following this one will detail pudding assembly.

Many of you non-British gentle readers may be wondering, what is summer pudding? Well, it is kind of like a fruit pie, except instead of a baked flaky crust you have a soft, juice-drenched bread shell, and instead of a bubbly stewed fruit center you have an assortment of fruit that has been only lightly cooked to bring out its juices. A light, refreshing dessert.

Many of you readers may also be wondering, “my god, three fucking days for a dessert?!?” The thing is I actually made this dessert twice over the period of time with a few overlapping ingredients. I used my own fresh-baked challah bread and an assortment of tropical fruits as opposed to the traditional berry mixture. If you really wanted to make this dessert the way I did it should only take you parts of two days, and if you are lazy you can create this dessert using pre-bought bread (I recommend challah or brioche) with about only 30 minutes’ worth of work.

So without further adieu, how to bake challah bread. To be fully honest, it is a lot of work (to do it the proper way), so unless you absolutely love cooking I recommend you seek shortcuts as I recommend them. Finally, please read through the entire recipe before you begin in the event there is something required that you do not have on hand.

Ingredients

Scarlett Johansen and Jessica Alba together, in bed.

Silly Westerners, eating bread when cooking rice is so much easier.

Prep Time ~5-10 hours

Adapted from Here

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling
1/4 cup honey OR white granulated sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg for eggwash
1/4 cup vegetable oil
7/8 cups warm water*
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar**

*Water should be warm but not hot, between 110-118F (43-47C) to allow yeast to flourish.
**Only if not using a poolish

Baking

There are two ways to start the bread: either by proofing (fast) or by using a poolish (slow). I used the poolish method, but either is fine.

For proofing: in a plastic container, measure out 7/8 cups of warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of yeast. Lightly cover with a lid and wait for 5-10 minutes until there is a beige foam floating above the water. If this foam is not there, dump out the water and start over: either the water is too hot and killed the yeast, or your yeast has expired. Only proceed once you have seen the foam.

For poolish: 5-7 hours (or the night before) baking, place 1/2 cup of warm water, 1/2 cups of flour, and 1/2 teaspoons of yeast into a plastic container, mix and cover lightly. Leave in a warm place until bubbles are seen and a slightly fermented aroma rises.

Nipples

Resist the urge to rub this all over your nipples, you'll need this poolish later.

Regardless of which method you use to activate the yeast, step two is to join the yeast/water mixture with all of the listed ingredients that have not been added yet. You may need a larger bowl for this step. Mix everything (remember to use only two eggs, the last egg is for egg wash) until you have a coherent mass.

Challah is a Jewish bread and all but it goes damn well with bacon.

Dump this coherent mass onto a lightly floured works surface. Knead your dough until you have a smooth coherent mass, about 8-15 minutes (People usually say 8-10 minutes, but I’ve never been able to do it in 8). The dough might be a bit sticky due to the honey. Continuously flour your hands if the dough becomes too sticky, but try not to add too much flour since that will negatively impact the resulting bread.

Your mother's wild younger years.

Dough. Rhymes with tough, cough, though, through, and trough. Isn't the English language so wonderfully intuitive?

Lightly oil the surface of a large pot. Place the dough into the pot and roll around to cover. Put a lid on the pot and let sit in a warm place (an oven that has been turned on for a while at 150F then turned off is a good place) to rise for 45 minutes.

After one hour, take the dough out. Gently press some of the air out of the dough, then return it to the oven for another 45 minutes of rising.

Looks like that dough really let itself go. As if it's American and McDonald's just opened next door.

Now take the pot out of the oven. You will need a relatively large work surface to work the bread into shape. Lightly flour your work surface. Take the dough out and divide it into six even pieces.

Tw- tw- tw- TWINS?!?

Try to make sure the pieces are exactly even, or one of the pieces might think you favor the other more and hate you forever when it grows up.

Roll each piece out to about 18-20 inches. Do not over-flour at this point, as it will make the rolling difficult. Braid the strands together to form your loaf. I would give instructions on how to do it, but it is rather difficult to describe. Instead, it is much better to look up how to do it in a Youtube video, such as this one:

Here are some additional photos of my own braiding in progress:

Once braided, transfer your loaf onto a lightly floured baking sheet. Let it sit for 30 minutes to rise for the third and last time.

Pre-heat your oven to 375F (190C). Beat an egg. Using either a brush or a paper towel, brush your loaf with the beaten egg two times. Bake the loaf for about 30-35 minutes (but start checking at 25 minutes) depending on your oven.

The Result

The Mona Lisa, naked.

Challahkazam! Super effective against ghost-types.

 4.5 / 5  If you’ve never tasted fresh-baked bread warm from the oven, you are missing out on one of the great food pleasures in life. To be honest, the only reason why I recommend using 3.5 cups of flour to shape the loaf is because you will need that much bread to make the pudding in the next blog. Otherwise, I recommend shaving down to 3 cup flour loaves or less. This is because with large loaves there is a delicate balance between cooking the bread through fully and not over-baking the eggwash exterior. As you can tell, the exterior of my bread is already near the limit of what is acceptable without tasting burnt.

Conclusion

This is the end of part one of a two-part blog series on how to make summer pudding. If you are not interested in summer pudding this loaf is perfectly good for consumption as is. Optionally, if you only wish to make Challah without making the pudding, you can opt to sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds onto the bread prior to baking, and incorporate raisins into the dough (soaked for an hour in warm water or brandy).

Please stay tuned for part two.

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