Three weeks ago, I first started thinking about buying a house. Two weeks ago, I saw one I liked and put in an offer. One week ago I signed a contract for it. This morning I found out the seller canceled our contract at the last possible moment and the house I thought was going to be mine isn’t.
If I don’t find something else before my deadline, I am planning to make up for the aggravation by taking a trip to Hawaii.
In the meantime, I have been on vacation in lovely Wilmington, NC for the past week, visiting Mike’s parents who recently retired here. I knew I had to catch up on my BBA Challenge baking, and luckily I had even more people to feed them to than usual.
I baked both the casatiello and the challah on the same afternoon. I started the casatiello first, so I think that should count as being “in order.”
I started the casatiello sponge.
Clearly I need some colored mixing bowls. Look at how much more interesting the photos are than with my boring clear bowls.
I added half and half since we didn’t have any whole milk or buttermilk.
Then I put it aside the ferment, and started on the challah dough. I mixed the dry and weighed out the wet.
Then added the wet to dry.
Then I kneaded! I did bring some essential equipment with me: my scale, my dough whisk, my bench scraper, my KAF bread flour and instant yeast. But I couldn’t bring my KitchenAid, of course, so this week everything was kneaded by hand. I set the timer to make sure I kneaded for the full 10 minutes, and those were long, long minutes.
Mike’s mom took pictures for me, so I have action shots!
I know I added a lot of flour in the kneading process for the challah to get it to come together. I forgot to bring my bread thermometer to test its temperature, but I did get it to windowpane, so I set it aside to rise.
Then I went back to my casatiello. I put together the flour, sugar, and salt, and added the eggs and sponge. By this time, I had run out of my KAF bread flour, and I needed to borrow some Pillsbury all purpose to finish the loaf.
Here’s my risen sponge:
I mixed it all together and then turned it out to knead in the butter.
I divided each of the pieces into smaller pieces and worked them into the dough. As Peter Reinhart warns, this does take a while.
When it came time to add in the cheese, I found that I had a helper.
This is Louie. He is a bouvier de flanders. He is also a cheese fiend.
He was not at all interested in the bread baking process until the cheese was pulled out. I gave him the leftover shreds after weighing out what I needed.
After I added the cheese, I set that aside to rise. Then I went back to my challah and kneaded it for a few minutes, then set it back to rise.
I think I had a break from bread at this point. After the doughs rose, I came back to shape. I started with the challah.
I divided it into three roughly equal balls with my bench knife and scale.
Then I shaped them into little boules and let them rest.
I rolled them out into three long strands and started braiding, following Reinhart’s directions since I had never done it before.
Then I switched to the other side to finish.
The braiding wasn’t difficult, but my ends kept coming apart while it was rising.
I shaped the casatiello into a single loaf and put it to rise again, too.
In a shorter time than I expected, my casatiello was cresting over the pan. I started preheating the oven, and ended up putting both of the loaves in after 45 minutes or so for a second rise. I turned them after 20 minutes, and took them out after 40. I think the casatiello could have stayed in a little longer, since it was very light when I took it out, but I was worried the challah would burn.
Aren’t these the cutest salt and pepper shakers?
Both breads tasted delicious, though. I think I liked the casatiello better, because I am also a cheese fiend. It is a rich dough, with a nice cheese flavor that was not overpowering. The challah was not as rich as I have had in the past. I liked it, but the casatiello was definitely my favorite of the two. I give the casatiello four out of five stars, and the challah three and a half.
Next up: ciabatta. I might make it this weekend, after we get back to New Jersey.