Community and Challah

by Janice on June 22, 2009


Every week, I’m amazed at the mystery held within the new dough.   It’s not that I can’t imagine the end result, given the list of ingredients, it’s just that bread-making is so much more than the sum of those ingredients.  It’s the temperature, the humidity, the baker’s hand.  Will I feel it?  Will I know the moment that the right amount of flour has been added?  Without adding too much?  It’s such a gift to take precious time to practice this form of edible art and science.

Someone asked me to quantify my learning so far.  On a scale of confidence about baking bread, from 1 to 10, where did you start at the beginning of the BBA Challenge, and where are you now, after 5 weeks?  I said that I started at about 6 and I’m at a 9.5.  Wow.  One book, by an amazing teacher.  One woman sending out a tweet.  A commitment by over 200 bakers all over the world to form a community.  Pounds of flour.  Hundreds of blog entries and flicker photos, thousands of comments, unlimited support.  A quantum leap in terms of bread baking confidence and knowledge.

Last week’s bread was Challah, a bread that holds many symbols of God’s goodness for the Jewish community.  I’m not sure I‘ve ever tasted it, prior to baking it.  I found it to be an easy dough.  I’ve never braided bread, so I was a little nervous.  There was no need – it handled very easily and looked gorgeous.

Some of my BBA Challenge friends found it to be less rich and less sweet than other recipes they had made.  I had nothing to compare it to, but was relieved to have a plain bread, after a few weeks of richness.  Only bread flour, a little sugar, a little vegetable oil, salt, yeast, eggs, and water.  (No butter!)  I made half into a braided loaf and half into hamburger buns, and we loved it all.   I’ll make this bread again, and will likely also try other versions suggested by the group.  To celebrate goodness in the form of the BBA challenge community, of course.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly June 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Beautiful! I don’t think your braided loaf could be any more perfect.

Well done!

Susie June 22, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Your braid and rolls are perfect.
Love baking along with you,

Anne Marie June 23, 2009 at 6:28 pm

I have been baking along with you guys and I keep waiting for failure. I’m always amazed when the bread turns out although the lovely descriptions certainly help avoid errors. I’m in ciabatta immersion week, the bread that I have been waiting for. Have fun!

Twitter: misterrios
June 23, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Twitter: @misterrios

Awesome Challah! I agree with you about the learning. Though I have been baking for 12 years, I have learned more from the first recipes in the BBA than in the years had prior to starting the challenge. Glad to be baking along with you.

mags June 24, 2009 at 5:07 am

What a lovely post… and an insightful question to those of us baking with you. On the confidence scale, I’d have to say that I started at about a 4… and now I’m busting out of my bragging britches at about an 8. That’s huge for me!

I love your comment about “the mystery held within the new dough.” (thought I was a dork for feeling that way….lol)

great job!

oggi June 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm

I love your write-up and the beautiful challah.

This is one of my favorite breads and I have quite a “collection” of recipes that I use…sometimes I prefer the sweeter one or the one with sweet potatoes which is really yummy.

Tammy June 25, 2009 at 2:47 am

Wow! From the looks of your bread, I’d say a professional made it. It’s perfect. Excellent post.

On the Confidence scale…I’d say I started out as a 2… now I’m about a 5… each bread still makes me a little nervous.

Twitter: pinchmysalt
June 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Twitter: @pinchmysalt

Beautiful Challah! It’s great to read about how much your bread-baking confidence has grown! I learn something new from each loaf and am always amazed at the end result. Thanks for participating!

Holly June 29, 2009 at 5:10 pm

There really is something to be said about baking along with friends, isn’t there? It makes it so much more of a wonderful experience and there is always something magical about working with yeast! Beautiful job on your challah!

Maris June 30, 2009 at 5:12 am

I love seeing everyone else’s breads! Yours look great!

Twitter: cheryltan88
June 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Twitter: @cheryltan88

Hamburger buns! Why didn’t I think of that? Your breads looked lovely. Congrats…

nico July 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

very nice step by step.

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:36 am

Thank you, Kelly and Susie!

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:37 am

Hi Anne Marie! Thanks for stopping by. So glad you are baking along with us – I’ll stop by to see how your ciabatta turned out.

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:38 am

Hi Daniel – I love reading your blog about what you are learning, too!

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:39 am

Hi Mags – It’s good to know that this BBA Challenge has all the “dorks” finding each other now, isn’t it? :)

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:39 am

Thank you, and I hope the recipe for the one with sweet potatoes is on your site, because you made me want to try it right now!

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:41 am

Oh, Tammy, that’s a very nice compliment! And just think, we’re not even 1/4 of the way through – I bet you’ll be at a 10 by the time we are half way.

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:41 am

Thanks, fearless leader!

roundthetable July 3, 2009 at 1:42 am

Thanks, Holly, Maris, A Tiger in the Kitchen, and Nico!

kellypea July 20, 2009 at 10:50 am

Very nice — beautiful color on that braid. I’d never made challah before either and was glad to have such a straight forward recipe.

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