I’ve been baking breads for several years now, but still remember the confusion of getting started. So many recipes said things like “Add water 1 TBSP at a time until reaching the right consistency” or “Let rise until the dough rebounds when you push on it” or “Knead the dough until you can read through it during a window pane test”. After so many loaves, some of those phrases have started to make sense. To be fair, that last one still hasn’t ever worked for me like I think it’s supposed to.
I’ve occasionally brought bread into work to share. This week a friend announced she was taking a new job and would host the final lunch talk about equity in education. These have been wonderful discussions for two reasons. First, these are conversations we need to be having for our students and our staff. Second, she always brings great snacks to share. After her announcement, she let me know she had some special berry jam from home that she was planning to bring and wondered if I could make challah to go with it. Having never made it and knowing only that it uses a lot of eggs, I said I would happy make a vegan version for the lunch.
Looking around online, I found several recipes, but none were quiet what I was looking for, so I decided to combine a few. As I started making it, the dough seemed extremely dry. I now know that I misread the instructions and only included about 30% of the liquid it called for. As the dough continued to mix, I decided to give up on the recipe completely and just go with what seemed right. I started adding liquid in small amounts, then just dumped in water, soy milk, and oil. It was finally looking close, but at that point, I felt I’d added too much, so more flour went in. Eventually I felt it had reached “the right consistency” and let the dough rise.
It rose much faster than I was used to, so I worked quickly to cut it into strands and braid it. After baking, I had trouble waiting for it to cool before tearing into it. It came out great, good color and flavor. It’s times like that when I feel I’m not just messing around with bread in the kitchen, but maybe just maybe, I’m an actual baker.
So here’s approximately what I think I put in:
- 600g AP Flour
- 10g Dry Yeast
- 10g Salt
- 80g Soy Milk (plus additional for wash)
- 75g Canola Oil (plus additional for wash)
- 60g Honey* or Agave
- 315g Water
* I use honey from bees we keep. I recognize this isn’t technically vegan, but it works for me. You can use any similar liquid sweetener.
- Combine all dry ingredients
- Combine wet ingredients and mix well
- Stir wet ingredients into dry and mix for 2 minutes at slow speed
- Let the dough rest for 5 minutes
- Mix/kneed with dough hook for 5 minutes at moderate speed (4-6)
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 once more
- Let rise for about 90 minutes
- Cut dough in half. Cut each half into four pieces and form them into strands
- Braid the strands into a loaf and place each loaf on parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- Let rise for about 60 minutes
- Paint tops of loaves generously with wash made of equal parts oil and soy milk
- Bake for 40 minutes
- Let cool and enjoy
- Wish your friend well in her new job.