We have a fairly new employee where I work who used to run a small restaurant. She's started bringing in a crock pot of home made soup on Fridays. Last Friday I took the plunge and brought in some of my home made bread. This is what I made.
Makes 2 braided 1 ½ pound loaves
2 packages active dry yeast. One tablespoon plus one teaspoon of yeast.
2 cups warm water
2 whole eggs or 4 beaten egg yolks
3 tablespoons corn or soy oil (I use olive oil)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups unbleached white or all purpose flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk for the glaze
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping
Proof the yeast in a little of the warm water and, when it is creamy add it to the rest of the water, the eggs, oil, and sugar. Mix the salt in the flour and then start adding the dry mixture to the liquid mixture by handfuls while mixing with a spoon. Continue adding the flour until you have only a few handfuls left and the dough has come together. This can take up to ten minutes. I tend to use more flour than the recipe calls for. I also get good results with two teaspoons of yeast per loaf and substituting a cup of whole wheat flour for one cup of the unbleached flour.
Empty the dough out onto a work surface and knead the rest of the flour into the rest of the dough over about 5 to 8 minutes. I have good luck leaving the dough in our nice stoneware bowl and turning the bowl while using a spatula to work in the flour. Not nearly as messy.
When the dough is soft and satiny, round into a ball and let rise in a large bowl or other container covered with a damp towel. It should double in size in an hour to an hour and a half.
If you are making challah, divide the dough in half then prepare the strands for braiding. Allow the dough to rise for a half hour to forty five minutes depending how warm the room is. Glaze the dough with egg mixture and sprinkle with the poppy or sesame seeds.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven. This is how I bake. Spray the loaves with water just before you put them in the oven. Spray the oven interior for steam. Respray the oven at two minute intervals. Do this four times. Loaves are done when they sound hollow when you tap them on the side or bottom. Watch the bread carefully. Because of the egg and sugar it may start to brown too soon. Reduce the oven temp to 350 and cover it with aluminum foil.
Now on to the monster maker.
Use half a batch of dough to make the cheese and onion bread.
2 cups finely diced or shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
½ cup minced green onion, might be able to use fresh onion chives if you have them.
You can also add rosemary, thyme or oregano. Say a tablespoon of dried herbs for a batch.
Punch the dough down after the first rise and let it rest for fifteen or twenty minutes. Gently stretch the dough out into a square the size of say a medium pizza. Sprinkle the cheese and onions over the dough and gently push it into the dough. I have luck folding the dough over in thirds and continue working until the cheese pokes through the dough.
The original recipe calls for shaping the dough into twenty rolls. You can also divide the dough into three parts, and roll the sections out in a rope. Braid the dough. It can be left as a loaf or shaped in a wreath. Line the pan with parchment paper. If you are using a stone put the loaf on parchment paper and allow it to rise on a cookie sheet or peel. Allow the loaf to rise in a warm place until it’s about half again as large as it started. Say a half hour or so.
I know, the usual instructions are to let the loaf double, trust me.
Preheat the oven to 375. Using a spray bottle spray the loaf and place in the oven. Quickly spray the inside of the oven until it’s nice and steamy. Wait for two minutes and spray again. Repeat this twice more. Watch this dough carefully. Because of the sugar and egg it will start to brown fairly quickly. Rolls will take 12 to 15 minutes. A loaf will take closer to half an hour. If it’s browning too quickly reduce the temperature to 350 and cover the loaf with a sheet of foil. The loaf is done when it sounds hollow when you tap on the side.
Try to let the loaf to cool for about half an hour before cutting, this allows it to finish baking. However………….:-)
From The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz. (a very good book with artisan style recipes and techniques.)
Anyway, the large wreath I brought in was gone by about 12:30 or so. That's the kind of food I like. Disappearing. The office manager basically said "it's official, she's in charge of soup, you're in charge of the bread." Heck, if I'd known a batch of half way decent home made bread would raise the cheerfuless level of the place I'd have done it a long time ago.
So I guess I have an office full guinea pigs. I promise to be kind.