Challah At Me Boy

17 09 2010

It’s the kind of day when your energy is such that there is no option but to bake.

Lightly sweet and eggy challah bread is what comes immediately to mind. I’ve never made it before, but it can’t be all that tricky. The braiding looks fun.

One major sticking point is that we lack an oven. No matter, we’ll need to involve nearby friends as baking buddies.

I know yeast is “levadura,” but if you pick up a box of “levadura en polvo,” you will end up with a baking soda mixture of dubious origin. Acquiring this refrigerated fresh yeast means making a special Mercadona excursion while Em readies the rest of the ingredients. If you’ve never encountered fresh yeast before, do not fear – one of these lil puppies is equivalent to the packets Americans are more used to.

While the dough rises for the first time, Fausto makes good on his promise to take Emily out for her very first kebab. We are joined by Leah, Kate, and Sam. Top-notch conversation accompanies the delicious cheap eats in Lavapiés.

On the walk back home, I discover yet another manifestation of Madrid’s constant vigilance.

Our doughbaby is now enormous, and it has managed to fill the entire piso with the sweet fragrance of yeast. It’s time to punch it down, which Em does with fervor. The recipe doesn’t call for a second rise here, but we want a siestita and do it anyway.

Perhaps forty minutes later, the moment of transportation has arrived. Sam runs out to a tienda chino for baking implements in anticipation of our imminent arrival.

Leah snaps a photo of the two giris with dough on the metro. Em and I not only match each other, but also our doughbaby’s blanket. It’s slightly sickening.

In Sam’s gorgeous and spacious kitchen (…), we form three doughsnakes, which Em proceeds to braid beautifully. It cradles snugly into the glass breadpan Sam found in the chino.

I lovingly brush the top bits of the braid with an eggwash, ensuring a shiny golden coat once baked.

Here the recipe suggests a final rise of an hour. We tuck our baby into bed, then know exactly what to do with the time:


The enticing scent of honey wafts into our nostrils as soon as we open the door. Our baby has gotten nearly too big for its britches.

What a beautiful beast. Sam cranks the oven to 190°C, and we pop it in. It needs twenty minutes of direct heat, then an aluminum foil tent prevents the top from charring too much.

We play Uno impatiently. Tragically, Emily has to head out during this time to make it to her very first Spanish class somewhere in the center – I promise her a challah feast upon returning to the piso later tonight.

After a series of unfortunate losses on my part, the time feels ripe.

Our breadchild could not be more beautiful. The product of a drizzly day’s work of slow efforts brings smiles all around, and even draws one of Sam’s housemates out of her room to investigate.

The honey and extra yolks in the dough give this dense bread a richness that pairs most sweetly with the semi-cured sheep’s milk cheese we brought over, and we also sample it with strawberry jam, honey, and a nutella-esque chocolate spread of Sam’s. A very well-dressed Kate comes over from a day at the museum and munches with us as well.

Recipe and abridged post here.




4 responses

17 09 2010

Oh man… I can almost smell the yeast and taste the honey sweetness from here. I guess I’ll go get me a stale almond cookie from the pantry.

17 09 2010

Look at the arms on you – especially in pic #7. Impressive.

23 09 2010

Wonderful bread like this brings friends together.

31 01 2011
best things I have cooked so far in Spain « con tomates

[…] cheese in place of paneer, also plus chicken) tunisian chard and white bean stew challah bread fiery sweet potatoes roasted eggplant, spinach, and cherry tomato […]

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