Monday, April 9, 2012

Recipes - Challah Beer Bread

Challah Beer Loaf

Perhaps it's carryover from the days of seasonal necessity in holiday menu planning, but Easter menus always seem comparatively exotic .  Lamb, asparagus, and the ubiquitous lemon cake, adorn every holiday table.

Unfortunately, this year our Easter menu turned into a "Seinfeld-esque" comedy of errors; and it all started with an innocent leg of lamb.

In our house lamb is traditionally verboden.  Mom loves it. Dad can't stand it. And in an on-going act of marital sacrifice Mom typically goes without.  But after reading a recipe for roasted leg of lamb in a recent edition of Southern Living Mom had to have some.

So she went to local supermarket a few days before Easter, and came home the proud owner of the second-to-last leg of lamb.

Photo courtesy of "The Butcher's Blog"

As an intrepid foody, I always enjoy cooking new foods and cuts of meat; but unfortunately I find it had to justify spending $50-$60 on a cut that only I will eat.  So I was more than happy to indulge my mother's flight of culinary fancy.

After spending 30 minutes grinding rosemary, chopping garlic, and blending herbs and spices with anchovy paste and olive oil, I took the lamb to the sink, sliced open the plastic bad, and began rinsing off my hands.  Then it started.  It wafted from the lamb like a slow motion, nasal, ballistic missile, lazily crescendoing into a violent tempest of offensive, malodorous carnage.  That lamb had turned, and not in a good way.

So now without lamb, our Easter dinner was built around a home-smoked ham in the freezer, spring risotto, roasted zucchini, and challah beer bread.  It was eclectic to say the least.

After dinner, and a few glasses of wine, we managed to laugh it off.  It was the best dinner and show I've ever attended!

Recipe: Challah Beer Bread
By Sam Parks (April 2012) 

Challah Beer Bread

Challah (pronounced ha-la) is a rich, yeast leavened bread, that is braided and typically served during Shabbat (Jewish sabbath).  As member of the goyim, I can't vouch for the Kosher-ness of this preparation...but I can tell you it tastes delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

(for the bread)
-1 bottle (12 oz) lightly-colored lager beer (I used the Alpine Lager from Sam Adams)
-3 Tbs. granulated sugar
-0.5 oz. bread machine yeast
-1 cup whole milk
-1/2 cup honey
-4 Tbs. vegetable oil
-1 Tbs. kosher salt
-2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten 
-9 cups all-purpose flour

(for the egg wash)
-2 egg yolks lightly beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water

DIRECTIONS:

-Heat the beer in the microwave for 50 seconds on high.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the yeast, and allow the mixture to stand for 15 minutes.
-While the yeast is activating, heat the milk, honey, oil, and salt in a small pan on the stove top.  Allow the milk mixture to heat until the honey and salt are fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 
-Pour the flour into a large bowl.  Add the yeast mixture and eggs to the flour.  Mix with your hands until everything is evenly distributed.  Pour the cooled milk into the flour, and continue mixing.
-Start kneading the bread, adding flour as necessary.  Knead for approximately 10 minutes, until the bread is smooth and no longer sticky.
-Oil the mixing bowl (I just used Pam), and place the kneaded dough into the bowl.  Place a damp towel over the dough, and allow it to rise until it has doubled in bulk (approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours).
-Punch down the risen dough, and divide in half.  Divide each half into thirds.
-Roll each of the thirds (really sixths) on a lightly floured board, until it resembles a long rope about 18 inches long.
-Working with three of the strings of dough, braid them into a single long rope.  As a man, this took some time to figure out.  But I can now confidently braid with the best of them.
-Place each of the braided loaves onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (it's helpful to braid these directly on the paper lined pan).
-Brush the loaves with ice-cold water, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk (approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours).
-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
-Bring some water in an all metal sauce pot (1-2 quarts) to a boil on the stove top.
-Brush the loaves liberally, but evenly, with the egg wash.
-When the oven is heated, place the small sauce pot on the bottom, and the two loaves on separate racks in the oven.
-Bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating the loaves once.  The loaves will be done when the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

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