Sunday, September 18, 2011


My family loves to eat.  Every member enjoys cooking and all of them are really good cooks.  I think our taste buds were spoiled by my mom’s superb cooking skills, so we all developed the interest in eating good food.  I had a late start because my mom said I was too slow and was always in her way in the kitchen when I was little.  I didn’t pick up the skill until when I was studying at university away from home. My cooking is like kindergarten level when compared to those of my sis' and big bro's.  Even though my other bro doesn't cook much, but his wife cooks very well too.  What a lucky man!

We had a small family barbeque at Lily’s (my sis) house today.  By small I mean usually we would have close to 20 people whenever we had one, but this time my parents, big bro and sis-in-law are enjoying sunshine and beaches in Hawaii; hence we’re down to 12 counts only this time.  Lily and Berta (my other sis-in-law) already decided on most of the items on the menu, while worrying that we might have too much meat, I brought some zucchinis and a Challah for the barbeque.

I know, as Cherry asked, why did I make Easter bread Challah in September?  My answer was, why not?  It’s a good looking tasty bread which fits for any time of year I’ll say.  It was huge, close to 17” long and weighed over 1.4kg.  We couldn’t finish it but everyone saved a few slices for themselves.  It’s a very easy recipe from William Sonoma.  Success guaranteed.

I also found some pictures showing simple steps to do a 4-strand braid for easy reference.  The link is included in the directions.

The recipe looks quite long in the original book.  Let me see if I can simplify it:

  • 2 packages (5 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (40 – 46C, slightly warm to touch)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, plus 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
  • 780g or 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room
  • 1 Tbs. poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)

  1. In large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, 3 eggs, 4 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and butter.  Knead until all ingredients are incorporated. 
  3. Add remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Do not add too much flour more than the amount on ingredients list. The dough should stay soft and will become less sticky with kneading. Remove the dough from the bowl.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough. Using a plastic pastry scraper, scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface.  Cut the dough into 4 pieces.  Make each into a rope, each should be as long as the width of your baking sheet.
  6. Line the ropes horizontally on the lined baking sheet.  Follow the instructions from this link to do the braid.
  7. Repeat the braiding until you reach the ends of the ropes. Pinch them together at the top and at the bottom, and tuck the strands under at the ends.
  8. Cover the braided loaf with a dry kitchen towel, and let rise again in a warm, draft-free spot until the loaf doubles in size and is jiggly when you shake the sheet, 45 to 60 minutes.
  9. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F.
  10. Brush the braid gently with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the seeds. Bake the braid until it is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Tip: Check after 20 mins, cover with foil if you see the loaf is browning too quickly. 
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Makes 1 large braided loaf.

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