Inspired by the BBA Challenge, I have made three bread from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Challah, Poor Man’s Brioche, and the Anadama Bread.
Here are my thoughts about the challah:
I liked that the challah dough was nice and wet. It rose well and was still easy to braid despite being on the wetter side for challah dough (I used the maximum amount of water suggested). After baking, the bread had a nice crumb, with the lightness and elasticity that you usually find in a bakery challah.
On the downside, the bread has fairly little sugar and oil, which helps to make it light, but also makes it stale much faster. I usually use much, much more oil and sugar and my challah stays soft and moist longer.
Reinhart is a big proponant of slow rising, but this is a fairly quick bread. I like Maggie Glezer’s strategy of prolonging fermentation by letting the dough rise in the fridge and then letting the shaped challah rise in the fridge.
Part of the problem may also be baking the challah a long time at a low temperature. Maggie Glezer also likes to bake her challah at a lower temperature, but I like to crank up the heat to 400 degrees and then drop it to 375 for baking. I like a very dark mahagony crust on my challah. I felt this challah crust was too light for my taste. Also, I bake for a much shorter period of time. I bake my challah for about a half hour or so.
The recipe also called for more egg yolks than I usually use, and I’m not sure that the final bread looks that much eggier.
The bread made stellar French toast, though.