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Daring Bakers: Challah back, y'all

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from A Taste of Challah, by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.
And what beautiful breads they were judging from the ones made by the Daring Bakers (have a look). Here's the link to the recipe and instructions.
I knew I wanted to use bamboo charcoal powder in my challah. You can't taste the charcoal in the bread (I assume it cannot be pleasant) unless you use too much, but it apparently has health benefits. I just like the colour it gives to the bread, and along with the way the challah is braided, this makes for a loaf with striking looks.
Black and white dough; six-braid long loaf and four-braid round loaf
I used a tried-and-true challah recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, divided the dough into two and kneaded bamboo charcoal powder (mixed with a little oil into a paste) into one portion. The amount of powder used is important. Use too little and the colour doesn't pop; in fact, it can turn out to be an unappetising greyish-green colour as I found when I made a spiral rye once. Use too much charcoal powder and the dough might be ashy. I used about two teaspoons.
I sprinkled the tops of the loaves with flax seeds before they went into the oven, but the seeds didn't stick well. The tops should, of course, have been eggwashed first. So, when the loaves came out of the oven, I brushed the tops with honey and pressed the recalcitrant seeds back on. The honey gave the loaves a nice glossy surface.
Chocolate spread and cinnamon add stripes
A few days later, I made another challah using "Ruth's 'Go-To' Whole Wheat Challah" (only half the amount). This is a fantastic recipe! Since she's given it away, I bet it won't be only Ruth's go-to recipe from now on.
Again, I made the dough in two colours. Chocolate spread and cinnamon are added to a third of the dough and the two portions are then layered using instructions from this site. The cardboard baking pan that I used was a little too small and the loaf bulged over the sides as it baked. Not as pretty as it could have been but did it matter? Not one bit.


  1. Your loaf is so striking! I saw pictures of your bamboo charcoal challah on the DB forums and was very impressed with your creativity :D

  2. I love the charcoal challah too, I have seen your previous loaf and thought that was beautiful too!

  3. WOW!!!!!! What beautiful loaves!!! I have never heard of bamboo charcoal before, but it looks so fun! And I love your laminated loaves, too! I am truly impressed! Great job!!!

  4. They look amazing...can't take my eyes off. I made cinnamon swirl and chocolate chips challah too but in two different breads. Loved the challenge very much.

  5. These are both such striking loaves! Bamboo charcoal powder is completely new to me (and probably something I won't be able to find where I am!) and I'm intrigued. Such creativity and artistry - great job!


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