The onset of coronavirus brought a rush of baking to the country, and our household was no exception. I tried baking challah for the first time I can remember, certainly the first time on my own, in the first week of April.
Conditions were less than ideal. We didn’t have enough flour, and the stores nearby had all run out, so I was forced to reduce the recipe and to use some ground flaxseed meal that we had lying around for some reason instead. Our honey had crystallized, so I substituted brown sugar. Also, my complete inexperience meant I was unprepared for some of the challenges. During the kneading process, for example, the dough started out incredibly sticky and ended up surprisingly stiff and resistant, which gave my hands quite a workout. I also failed to secure the ends after braiding the dough, so they came apart a bit in the oven.
All told, though, the experiment was a success. I painted the surface with melted butter instead of egg, and we ended up with a smallish and dissociated, but still fragrant and tasty, loaf of challah for Shabbat. A friend had warned me during the process (by text) that the flax meal might make the bread gritty, but it was fine. At most, we had something the texture of whole wheat bread instead of smooth white bread.
Passover began the following Wednesday, though, so we had to rush to finish it alongside with the rest of our tidying-up of the house’s leavening.
This week, I tried a second time. This time we had enough flour, and while I added a little more flax meal, I was able to follow a recipe normally (this recipe, for the record). The Kid helped me roll the dough into ropes for braiding, and again I painted the surface with melted butter.
The result was an unqualified success! We ended up with a surprisingly large loaf of soft challah, and the salt in the butter I’d painted it with gave it a just a bit of an extra oomph. We’re no longer in a rush to consume or dispose of our leavening, but I suspect that this one won’t last very long either.