Been a while! But there's a good reason. First, I got sick. And I can't give good feedback on a recipe when I can't taste it. Second, I don't often read what I'm going to be doing the next week before I embark on doing it, so when I took a look at this recipe strolling through the grocery store for ingredients, I realized it required a half-sphere silicone mold. Six types of whisks? I got that. Silicone mold? Nuh-uh. So I ordered it and waited.
Once you get all that out of the way though, this is actually a really fun recipe. A lot of steps, but it's gratifying. The first step is to make the cookie. It's nothing to write home about--just a shortbread cookie. I noticed when I was making it that it didn't come together quite as well as I thought it would--no smooth ball--so I ended up adding a little extra milk and kneading the ball a bit to get it together. I threw it in the fridge for 5 minutes to let it come together more, and rolled it out.
While the cookies baked, I dealt with the molds. That's a nice thing about this recipe: while there are a lot of steps and a lot of waiting for things to set, everything fits together like a zipper: each piece fits nicely into the pieces before and after it. The pictures here are in the order I did them, so while the cookies were baking and cooling, I melted chocolate and coated the molds.
And then once the cookies cooled, I dipped them in that same chocolate, and let them set. At this point, because I had made an extra cookie, I got to try one, and they were delicious. Do I wish they browned a bit? As a cookie alone, yes. But when you put it together, it's really interesting to have this mild, crumby cookie.
The final part of this recipe is the marshmallow. I advise you: if you have a hand mixer, use it. I do not, and said to myself "You haven't worked out in a while. You could use a little whisking." Well, it was a lot of whisking. Whisking egg whites isn't so bad. But over simmering water with sugar, sugar syrup, vanilla, and salt? It took longer. A lot longer. And I think I stopped too early. Ideally, the marshmallow turns thick and stiff, and while mine didn't drip, it did droop. But my arms were just so tired.
And now to put it all together. Assembly and presentation, as I'm sure I've said before, are is my forte. I'm basically making it up as I go along, and my DSLR makes everything look pretty. I have fun trying though. The key here, which I learned after filling 5 of the 6, is to not overfill with marshmallow. You will have leftover marshmallow. And, delicious as it is, you shouldn't fill to the brim, because then you'll have ugly bottoms. Like this....
Not that anyone sees the bottom of your dish, but I like to think every part of your craft should be beautiful. Even the parts nobody can see.
It adds something special that makes the final product taste that much better, subconsciously. And these tasted good. A few things I would do differently: leave the mold to drip more to give a thinner shell (the volume of chocolate made the dessert far too sweet), whip the marshmallow more to give a stiffer batter, and probably cook the biscuit a bit more to give it more of a snap and less of a crumble. I highly recommend making these. It's worth the effort.
Chocolate Tea Cakes
makes 6 cakes
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER
25 grams (1 ounce) GRANULATED SUGAR
25 grams (1 ounce) BUTTER
1 tablespoon MILK
3 large EGG WHITES
150 grams (5 1/2 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
6 teaspoons GOLDEN SYRUP
1/2 teaspoon SALT
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
283 grams (10 ounces) CHOCOLATE MELTING WAFERS
1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Place FLOUR, SALT, BAKING POWDER, and SUGAR into a bowl and mix
3. Rub BUTTER into flour mixture until consistent texture
4. Add MILK into mixture and stir until you form a smooth ball -- note: you may need to knead 5-6 times to bring mixture together if crumbly
5. On a floured surface, roll dough out to 14" thick, and cut out six rounds of 3" diameter to fit your silicone mold
6. Chill rounds in the freezer for 10 minutes, then bake 10-15 minutes until hard (note: they will not brown as normal biscuits because of the low oven temperature)
7. Remove biscuits from the oven and cool on a wire rack
8. Melt the CHOCOLATE WAFERS in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring thoroughly in-between, and let cool slightly
9. Coat the inside of the molds with chocolate by spooning into the molds, then spreading it up the sides with the back of a spoon, then flip the mold upside-down to let excess chocolate fall out (this leaves the coating thin). Set aside at room temperature to set.
10. Dip the flat side of the cooled biscuits in the remaining melted chocolate and leave chocolate side-up to cool on a wire rack
11. Place EGG WHITES, SUGAR, GOLDEN SYRUP, SALT, and VANILLA in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until it turns white and glossy, at least double the size, and thickened to be able to hold a shape
12. Spoon the marshmallow into a piping bag
13. Re-melt the chocolate (it will have hardened) and put it in a piping bag
14. Pipe the marshmallow into each mold, leaving 1/4" of room
15. Pipe some chocolate onto the marshmallow, and place the biscuit, chocolate side-up onto the marshmallow
16. Pipe a ring of chocolate around the biscuit base and smooth as much as you can
17. Leave to set fully, then press up on the bottom of the mold carefully to pop the cakes out of the mold. Store at room temperature
I'll be honest, I haven't really enjoyed the past few of these weeks of challenge. I mean, I love baking, but how jazzed can I really get over diet flan? Over meat pie? Cheap rum-soaked bread? Season 3 has been a bit of a disappointment. But I think the second half of the season is going to be surprisingly pleasant, starting with this dish. And hey, next week is jelly doughnuts.
But let's start with the name: the queen of puddings. I tell you, after I finish this project, I'm going to have to find a non-British set of bakes to do, because that has to be the most British name I've ever heard. Much as I tried to find the origins of such an odd name, I came up blank. But I don't blame the inventors for using such a regal title for such a pedestrian dish--at the end of the day this is stale bread and custard, so it's not exactly a sophisticated dish.
But boy is it easy, and delicious. It's a three-part dessert, which might be intimidating to some, but if you take each one on its own, it's really quite an easy dessert, and hard to mess up. Step one is the custard: head up some milk with sugar and stuff, throw it in some yolks, and pour it on top of breadcrumbs. Anyone can do that.
Step two honestly should just be "pop open a jar of jam," but I believe they had to make their own on the show, and who am I to break from tradition? I also have never made jam before, and while this is more of a "quick jam," I thought it best to expand my horizons and learn a new skill. And it couldn't be easier: cook some berries, add some sugar, let it hang out until it thickens. The end. I chose blueberries because that's what I had in my freezer, and it was raining outside so going to the store was a negative.
A bit about this custard: it's kind of weird. It seems like a normal custard here, and in baking it, the dish behaved like a normal custard. But once it cooled and once I scooped out a serving, and especially when I had leftovers for breakfast the next day (and the next day, and the next day), the custard became much more solid. Not that it wasn't delicious, and not that it wasn't creamy, but something about baking the custard soaked in breadcrumbs gave the custard a much firmer texture than most (such as flan) have. It wasn't necessarily bad, and it actually made it easier to scoop out servings later, but just be forewarned that you're not going to get the same smooth, creamy texture you would get from most custard recipes.
Step three is the only "tricky" step, and it's only tricky because meringue scares people, when honestly it shouldn't. Especially in this recipe. For starters, you only use the yolks in the custard, so you already have three whites laying around: this recipe is economical. And don't be afraid of meringue! All it takes is a little elbow grease (the hard way) or a machine (the easy way), and if you can't muster the strength to whisk for five minutes, then you probably shouldn't be eating this anyway (not fat-shaming, just saying stamina is important if you want to bake)
Now for putting it all together, which is something I used to detest before starting this project, but is actually what I'm looking forward to more and more. It's kind of fun to have your various components all laid out, ready to put into a final dish in which the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Construction here is simple: spread the jam on the custard--and remember to be careful here. While this is a sturdier custard than most, it's still delicate, so if you spread the jam out with the same reckless abandon as frosting on a cake or butter on bread, you're going to mix the jam in with the custard and it will become a mess. Not that mixing the jam in would taste any different, but Mary Berry would most certainly not approve of your technique.
Finally, pipe or spoon the meringue on top and bake for another short span of time to brown the marshmallow goodness. To be honest, my meringue was too runny (especially after watching Mary's Master Class), but so long as it doesn't overflow your dish and make a mess in your oven, I don't see how that would make much of a difference.
Honestly, I'm happy I got to use this baking dish. I am usually very particular when it comes to my cookware: I always buy All-Clad and ScanPan (even if it means I buy fewer pans), I always consult Cook's Illustrated for any of my tools, and I appreciate the value bright colored Le Creuset dishes bring to my kitchen. And while this is a very handsome dish, I have no idea who made it or where it came from. It was my Grandma's baking dish, back from who-knows-what-year when she used to bake. I'll save a special entry to talk about her and how she influenced my love of cookery, but suffice to say I get giddy whenever I can use something of hers in my kitchen. Most often, it's her well-annotated copy of the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, but using this dish was a genuine pleasure.
And so we arrive at the taste. It was far better than I expected. Contrary to what I said earlier about the jam, the homemade jam here really did the trick. The custard was firm, as I've said earlier, but it was also rich, and the sweet tartness of a homemade jam (most commercial jams are far too sweet) cut through the richness in a way that was a perfect complement. And don't even get me started on meringue. I am one of the biggest marshmallow fans you will ever meet, and would (and often do) eat marshmallow desserts (such as meringue--cooked or uncooked) alone. This topping, with its crunch exterior and its still soft and pillowy interior, gave the textural element that was needed to keep this dessert from being a boring experience for my mouth. Yes, this dish has multiple steps and components and needs care in construction, but it's honestly no more difficult than baking cookies. I highly recommend you trying it, and I hope this inspires you to do so. I know I never would have thought to make a queen of puddings were it not for this challenge, so let me be your test monkey and say that this is definitely worth it.
Queen of Puddings
makes one dish, serves 8
2 cups (600 milliliters) (1 pint) MILK
25 grams (1 ounce) (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) BUTTER
1 zest LEMON
50 grams (2 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
3 large EGG YOLKS
75 grams (3 ounces) BREADCRUMBS
200 grams (7 ounces) FRESH FRUITS [or, 500 grams FROZEN FRUITS]
200 grams (7 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
3 large EGG WHITES
175 grams (6 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
1. Preheat the oven to 325F and grease a shallow ovenproof dish that can fit into a roasting tin or deep pan
2. Warm the MILK in a small saucepan
3. To the milk, add the BUTTER, LEMON ZEST, and SUGAR, and stir until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted
4. Lightly whisk the EGG YOLKS in a bowl, and slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the eggs, starting with a splash and whisking, then pouring the rest in gradually to create a custard base
5. Sprinkle the BREADCRUMBS over the base of the buttered dish
6. Pour the custard base over the breadcrumbs and let stand 15 minutes
7. Transfer the dish to a roasting tin or pan and fill it halfway with hot water
8. Bake the custard for 25-30 minutes, or until the custard has set, then remove from the oven to cool a little
1. Put the mixed FRUIT into a pan and warm over gentle heat until softened and they begin to release their juice
2. Add the SUGAR to the fruit and cook for 3 minutes
3. Heat the mixture gently until you have a jam-like consistency (heat longer if using frozen berries, as they will release more liquid)
1. Whisk the EGG WHITES on high until stiff peaks form
2. Add the SUGAR gradually, while continuing to whisk on high until the mixture is stiff and shiny
1. Heat oven to 300F
2. Spread the fruit jam over the custard in a thin layer (note: you'll probably only use half of the jam that the recipe above makes)
3. Place the meringue on top of the jam-covered custard in heaping spoons to cover the top, or pipe in large dollops, making sure there are peaks and valleys of meringue across the whole surface of the dish
4. Return the pudding to the oven for 25-30 minutes until the meringue is pale golden all over and slightly crisp
5. Serve warm and fresh from the oven or the next day, optionally with light or heavy cream drizzled on top
With such a fancy French name, you'd think this week would bring us a complicated recipe that would take three days and involve at least 5 pounds of butter. After making the crème caramel, however, I believe the name is a misnomer. There are basically three ingredients to this dish, and "creme" is generous. A better name, in my opinion, would be "diet flan."
I approached this recipe thinking I was to be making a flan, which I am well-acquainted with, as my mother-in-law makes quite possibly the best leche flan on the face of the planet. Hers is Filipino in origin, using sweetened condensed milk. Others I've eaten have been Mexican, using heavy cream or half-and-half, and solely the yolk of the egg.
This one was different. It used the whole egg: yolk and white. And it called for just 1 tablespoon of sugar per ramekin in the custard. And it called for milk--regular milk. Not sweetened condensed. Not heavy cream. Not even half-and-half. 3.25% fat milk. What I put in my coffee in the morning. Could this really be rich enough to be classified as dessert?
Just a few tips in making this: make sure you don't let your caramel get too dark (I cooked mine a little too much -- aim for a dark copper, not a near-burnt sugar), let it cool in the ramekins at room temperature so the sugar doesn't get soggy, and cool the custard at room temperature once out of the oven (if you throw it into the fridge too soon, you'll get brains like in the last picture in this post). The one tricky part is the same whenever you're cooking custard: knowing when it's done. What you're looking for is an outside rim that is set, and a center that jiggles, but does is not liquid. With this one, it's better to slightly overcook than undercook, but try to take it out just when the center is jiggling.
The result was actually quite delicious. Was it my mother-in-law's leche flan? Of course not. But it wasn't terrible. And it didn't overload me on sugar or fat and make me feel sluggish. It gave me the mild sugar rush I need at the end of the meal, without making me crave more. I stand by that this is a diet flan. But it's not in the same vein as a diet cake, which tastes like cardboard. This is actually worth eating.
makes 6 individual ramekins
160 grams (6 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
6 tablespoons WATER
BUTTER, for greasing the ramekins
4 large EGGS
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
25 grams (1 ounce) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 cups (600 milliliters) WHOLE MILK
BOILING WATER, for the water bath
HEAVY CREAM, for finishing
1. Preheat oven to 300F and put the ramekins in the oven on a sheet pan
2. Pour the 160 grams of GRANULATED SUGAR and the WATER into a saucepan and dissolve the sugar slowly over a low heat
3. Keep the heat on low and do not stir, as the mixture starts boiling and turns a dark copper color
4. Remove the pan immediately so the caramel doesn't burn and distribute evenly into the warmed ramekins
5. Leave the ramekins out on the countertop to cool completely, until the caramel is hard (do not cool in the fridge, as the sugar will absorb moisture and not harden)
6. Once cooled, butter the sides of the ramekins
1. Whisk the EGGS, VANILLA EXTRACT, and SUGAR together into a bowl until well mixed
2. Pour the MILK into a saucepan and heat over low heat until hot to the touch, but not boiling
3. Pour the heated milk over the egg mixture, while whisking, and continue to whisk quickly until smooth
4. Sieve the custard mixture to separate any egg that may have scrambled
5. Pour the custard evenly into each of the ramekins and place them on a wet paper towel in a baking dish
6. Pour the boiling water into the baking dish until the water reaches halfway up the sides (this is easiest to do with the oven rack pulled halfway out and the dish placed on the rack, so you can just carefully push the rack in, instead of having to carry a dish of boiling water to the oven)--be careful not to get any of the water in the ramekins
7. Cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the custard has set around the edges, and is jiggly but not liquid in the center
8. Take the baking dish out of the oven and use tongs to carefully lift the ramekins out of the water and onto a cooling rack
9. Cool completely at room temperature (lest you want your custard bottoms to look like a brain, below), then place in the fridge to chill at least four hours (or overnight)
10. To serve, run a paring knife under hot water and dry the knife, then slip the knife around the edges of the ramekin to loosen; place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and quickly flip dish right side-up, then optionally pour heavy cream over the top
I've been putting off this recipe. Part of it was that I definitely over-baked myself during the holidays, but part of it was just because I couldn't stomach the thought of eating a treacle tart. I mean, I love me a good pie, but a sugar syrup pie with breadcrumbs? I'd rather have a pecan pie and enjoy myself a whole lot more. So it took me a good 3 weeks to work up the motivation to say "Let's do this." And this past weekend, I did it.
And I didn't regret it. Sure, I messed up a little, which we'll get into, but the end result was surprisingly delicious. Would I still have preferred a pecan pie? Of course, pecan pies are amazing. But if you don't like the sickeningly sweet caramel heaviness of a pecan pie, and you're looking for something lighter, brighter, and a bit lemony, then a treacle tart is actually your best bet.
The first step was making the pie crust. The recipe is a standard pie crust recipe: cut the butter into the flour, and add the water until it comes together. I kept this dough drier than I usually do, because I noticed the past few times I've made pie dough (hi, lemon tart), I feel like I made it too wet, which left me with a droopy, shrinking, melty crust when cooked. I put in about 2 1/2 of the recommended 3 tablespoons of water, and while the dough came together, it was a bit crumbly when rolling out. So, negative points for difficulty, but on the other hand, positive points because it made the butter taste shine through. Lesson learned: I'm willing to put in work for butter.
So, mess up #1: the wrong size tart pan. I only have one tart pan, and it is 9" round. I assumed this was standard size and, against Mary Berry's constant advice, I did not read the recipe through fully before embarking on this technical. I also didn't even realize this mistake until I was writing this blog post and copied down the full recipe, tin size included. In retrospect, I did have to roll the dough out very thin to fit in my pan, and I didn't have nearly enough to do a beautiful lattice (the one I did was "meh" at best).
However, if you get the right pan, this recipe is actually really easy, with just three main ingredients (besides the crust). A couple lemons, some breadcrumbs, and golden syrup.
As you may remember, golden syrup was a bit of a sticking point when I made brandy snaps a few months ago. We don't have it here in the US (add it to the reasons we suck), and I didn't have enough leftover from November to make this tart, so I made a new batch. I'll save my rhapsodizing about golden syrup for a separate (bonus!) post, but suffice to say it's a sweet lemony syrup that really cannot be replaced by molasses or corn syrup (much as baking sites and cookbooks say you can).
Mess up #2: again, not reading the whole recipe, and throwing my breadcrumbs in before I saw Mary specified fine breadcrumbs. I just took some panko (whole wheat, because it was on sale) breadcrumbs and tossed them in. Panko is a special kind of breadcrumb precisely because they are less fine. They left the filling looking... lumpy. And gross.
At this point, after the crust mistake, the breadcrumb mistake, and thinking that a weirdly tart sugar syrup filling would be way too... sweet? Sour? I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't good.
Fortunately, what I got was an amazing pie. A crispy crust and a toasty, crunchy, slightly sweet, slightly citrus filling. It wasn't too sweet at all, and wasn't heavy in the slightest. Would I make it again? Probably not, but that's because I prefer heavy, decadent desserts--why else do you think I have a second dessert stomach? To fill it up, of course. But, if you're looking for a summertime dessert, or some lighter fare for the vanilla crowd (no offense), this is a great option. especially topped with your favorite non-chocolate ice cream (I don't think chocolate would pair well).
Also: no soggy bottom.
makes one 7" round tart
250 grams (9 ounces) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
130 grams (4 1/2 ounces) BUTTER, cold
2-3 tablespoons ICE WATER
400 grams (14 ounces) GOLDEN SYRUP
150 grams (5 1/2 ounces) FINE BREADCRUMBS
2 LEMONS, zest and juice
1 large EGG, for egg wash
1. Place the BUTTER and FLOUR in a large bowl and "cut" in the butter with a pastry cutter, pair of knives, or your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs with a few larger pea-sized pieces of butter
2. Add two tablespoons of the ICE WATER and mix until moistened; if the mixture does not hold together and become one mass of dough, add a third tablespoon and mix
3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge at least 20 minutes
1. Remove 150 grams (5 1/2 ounces) of the pastry and set aside for the lattice top
2. Roll the rest of the pastry out thinly (~1/8") on a lightly floured surface, and line the pan, including the sides--make sure to press the dough firmly into the fluted edges, and cut off any pieces that hang over
3. "Dock" the bottom of the crust by pricking all over with a fork, creating tiny holes, to stop the base from rising up during baking
4. Roll out the reserved 150 grams of pastry to 1/8-1/4" thin and 9" in diameter (wider than the actual tart tin) and brush on beaten EGG
5. Place both raw crusts in the fridge to chill
filling & baking:
1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Place the GOLDEN SYRUP into a pot and heat gently over medium-low heat (do not boil)
3. Once thinned out and warm add the BREADCRUMBS and LEMON JUICE and ZEST to the syrup
4. Allow to cool slightly, but not so cool as thicken, and pour into the prepared crust
5. Cut the reserved pastry into long strips, about 1/2" wide
6. Lay the strips in a lattice pattern over the top of the pie, then press the edges into the crust to seal
7. Bake on a pre-heated baking tray for 10 minutes, or until pastry is beginning to become brown, then turn the oven down to 350F, covering if the lattice top is browning too much, and baking another 25-30 minutes until filling is set and crust is brown
8. Remove from oven and let cool slightly--serve warm or cold (preferably with ice cream)
Hello, bread week! We meet again. Just after last week's cake week was actually a bread week. To be honest, I made this about a month ago, because I was fooled by the word "plaited" and my own cultural associations. To me, growing up, a "plaited," or, braided loaf was always called challah and it was for Friday night Shabbat dinner. A braided bread was a Jewish thing, always. So, I made this bread in preparation for my mom's annual Vodka Latke Dinner (where you drink vodka and eat latkes, naturally), thinking how cosmic it was that challah week was the same week of my mom's party.
Turns out you can braid a bread without it being a challah. Oops.
So, why is this bread not a challah in spirit, if it is indeed challah in shape? Challah is a type of enriched bread, meaning it has some sort of fat or sweetness added to it, above any beyond the flour+water+yeast that makes bread a bread. Challah has eggs in it. Brioche is a similar enriched bread, but uses butter, not eggs. Both are delicious and both are often used in French toast. Personally, I prefer challah. It may be nostalgia, but brioche is a bit too greasy for me--the butter makes the bread (dare I say) too rich, whereas the eggs gives a better balance of fat, and an altogether better loaf. And it's kosher so like, there's that.
This dough was frustratingly sticky. Not as bad as the rum babas, but definitely not an "easy" bread. And seeing as it was the second yeast-based dish I made in as many days, I was so over it. Tired of cleaning my countertop, of washing my hands. I wasn't tired of eating bread of course (especially with a pad of salted butter), but just of making it. I would have preferred a chocolate cake. Can I test bake wedding cakes again?
But the smell was intoxicating. There is nothing like unwrapping risen bread and the pleasant scent of yeast waft through the air. After coming back into the kitchen and seeing the dough has risen double its size, wanting to burst out of the container, after unwrapping it and smelling how alive the dough is... it's truly magical. At this point, I'm willing to clean my countertop a thousand times to eat such deliciousness.
And enriched breads (though this one is less enriched than a challah or brioche) are especially pliable and soft. If you've never kneaded and squeezed and handled fresh homemade bread dough, you're missing out. I mean, even if your bread turns out like a dense hockey puck, the very act of playing with the dough is so satisfying--doesn't take much to figure out why they named the child's toy Play-Doh.
At this point, we get to the technical aspect of the bread: the plaiting. Now, growing up, we always made the standard 3-strand challah breads, and that's how I learned to braid. I made a 6-strand challah bread once, many years ago, but I cheated a bit and just made two 3-strand breads (one larger than the other), and stacked them with the smaller on top of the larger. This beast, per Paul Hollywood, is an 8-strand plaited loaf, and he has a very specific way to go about it. Which I had to look out. And diagram.
You first start by dividing your dough into 8 roughly same-sized balls of dough. You can use a scale, but you know what? We're not working in a commercial kitchen and we're making a single loaf. So just eyeball it -- nobody's going to care.
The next part can be tedious if your dough is extremely elastic, which happens if it gets warm enough. If your dough starts to shrink back in on itself while rolling it out, throw it in the fridge for a few minutes, but not for long, or the dough will dry out.
You should be fine though, just roll out eight strands, squeeze them all together at the top, and get to braiding.
The braiding is actually fun, once you get in the flow of it. Basically, number the strands from 1-8 from left to right, and move them over and under each other according to a simple pattern. Each time you move one, they all effectively get renumbered (1-8, left to right), so #1 is always the left-most strand. Just take it slow and steady and you'll be fine.
And the results are pretty breathtaking. It will look like a mess until you have it all together and then you'll step back and go "whoa" and revel in your own amazingness.
The taste was delicious. I mean, it's a slightly enriched bread -- it could be better, it could be worse -- but what you're really going for here is less the taste and value of the bread itself, and more the caramelization you get with all of the braided nubs. That's what makes it so delicious and addictive to eat. Despite a clean slice shown below, my inclination when eating a braided loaf is to just grab at the nubs with my hands and rip the loaf apart little by little. Would I have rather had a challah bread than this bread to eat? Yes. But for a special occasion bread that you can just throw together, half-heartedly knead, and be ready in a couple hours, this is acceptable.
makes one 15" loaf
500 grams (1 pound + 2 ounces) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, plus more for dusting
2 1/2 teaspoons ACTIVE DRY YEAST
1 1/2 cups (340 milliliters) (12 fluid ounces) WARM WATER (100F-110F)
2 teaspoons SALT
1 1/2 tablespoons OLIVE OIL
1 large EGG, beaten with a pinch of salt
1. Take 1/2 cup of the WARM WATER and whisk in the ACTIVE DRY YEAST, then leave for 10 minutes to activate -- the mixture should be bubbling and yeasty-smelling
2. Combine the FLOUR, SALT, OLIVE OIL, and yeast/water mixture, and stir to combine
3. Add the remaining warm water and mix until the dough becomes a shaggy dough, then turn out onto a floured surface
4. Knead dough by hand until the dough looks silky and stretches (about 10 miutes)
5. Oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, then turn to coat dough in oil, cover in plastic wrap, and leave to rise until doubled in size (about an hour)
6. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead to knock the dough back
7. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and roll each into a snake of about 16 inches long
8. Lay all the strands out, and pinch one end of all of them together to form a starting point for the braiding
9. Number the strands from 1-8 (left to right) in your head, knowing that every time you move a strand, you will re-number the strands (they are always 1-8 from left to right -- the strand does not retain its number as it moves); braid the strands as follows:
11. Preheat the oven to 400F
12. Brush the loaf with an EGG beaten with a little salt, and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the dough sounds hollow when tapped
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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