Monday, February 08, 2010

BBA Challenge: A Little Magic On A Sunday Morning

One week, two breads. Brioche and Challah. Okay, I'll say it. They were okay. But they weren't great. I was a little underwhelmed after my bagel experience. They weren't complete failures, they just each had their...issues.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice includes three brioche recipes, which vary according to their butter content -- one for the Rich, one for the Middle Class, and one for the Poor. In a tiny, grudging nod to Kevin's diet, I decided to make the Poor Man's Brioche. Though it doesn't measure up to the rich variety, the formula still contains 23 percent butter. So while it was baking, the whole house was bathed in the scent of warm, buttery goodness. It even looked pretty good. But the texture was, well, a bit spongy. I'm not sure if that was a result of the balance of ingredients, or or if I worked the dough too long. It seemed a little rubbery before it went into the oven. Still, the brioche toasted up nicely for breakfast the next morning, and tasted even better with more butter slathered on top. It does seem sinful to add more butter onto a bread that already contains so much, but it just calls for it.

The Challah was my first effort at braiding bread. I've never even been able to braid my own hair, so I didn't have high hopes. But it was actually a pretty easy dough to work with. Alex even got his four-year-old hands into the mix.

The problem came in the baking. Our oven is a little like an opera singer. She is gorgeous, she fills up half the room, and she is wildly temperamental. To get her mood swings under control, we got into the habit of always using the convection setting. But I think the convection fired up my Challah way too quickly. By the time I checked the bread's internal temperature, it soared past the recommended 190 degrees. The braids came out shiny and golden (although slightly lopsided), but had developed a tough crust.

It still got a few oohs and aahs, especially as we filled the kids with warm bread just before sending them off to bed. But I didn't have to fight myself from eating it all at once. Which is, ultimately, the true test of a good bread.

With both brioche and Challah growing stale on our counter, I was loathe to let all that good dough go to waste. Croutons? Bread crumbs? Kind of boring. So, I mentioned to Kevin that perhaps we could whip up some French toast. Translation: HE could whip up some French toast. He is generally more perky and well equipped to whip things up on a Sunday morning. And whip he did. He turned those two so-so breads into something divine. He bathed the slices in a batter infused with vanilla and cinnamon, and fired up the griddle. (Here, his diet goes out the window. Sorry!) The slices of brioche were like souffles, with a thin golden crust. The Challah was a bit chewier, which appealed to the kids. It almost tasted too good for maple syrup. Almost.

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