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BBA Challenge #5 and #6: Casatiello and Challah

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.

Flour for Sponge

Clearly I need some colored mixing bowls. Look at how much more interesting the photos are than with my boring clear bowls.

Added Yeast

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.

Eggs and Oil

Then added the wet to dry.

Adding Egg Mixture

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.

Kneading Challah

Kneading Challah

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.

Adding Eggs

Here’s my risen sponge:

Risen Sponge

I mixed it all together and then turned it out to knead in the butter.



Butter for Casatiello

I divided each of the pieces into smaller pieces and worked them into the dough. As Peter Reinhart warns, this does take a while.

Adding Butter

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.

Challah Risen

I divided it into three roughly equal balls with my bench knife and scale.

Dividing the Dough

Dividing the Dough

Then I shaped them into little boules and let them rest.

Divided Challah

I rolled them out into three long strands and started braiding, following Reinhart’s directions since I had never done it before.

Braiding Challah

Braiding Challah

Then I switched to the other side to finish.

Braiding Challah

Braiding Challah

Challah Braid

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.


Casatiello in Pan

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?

Bread with Fish

Sliced Casatiello

Sliced Casatiello

Sliced Challah

Challah with Fish

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.

7 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #5 and #6: Casatiello and Challah

  1. I don’t think anybody cares about the “rules” that much! Just keep baking with us and we are all happy. Your braid looks beautiful.

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