They look lovely, don't they?
Here they are all baked for our (rather late, as usual) dinner last night.
You might think that two loaves of Challah is a trifle decadent for a family of 6 and I would normally agree, except that the first loaf is actually an Emergency Backup Challah, which was a necessary precaution given that the second loaf contains fig paste.
I kid you not. Fig paste. I baked it on a whim, which is a complete and total lie since I am not the kind of person who keeps figs in the house just in case I am suddenly seized by the urge to surprise my family with figgy baked goods. What really happened is that I pre-ordered the Smitten Kitchen cook book last spring. The book contains a recipe for this avant garde Challah and I immediately ran to the store to buy figs so I could make it. That's another lie: what really happened is that I put figs on the weekly shopping list, forgot to buy them two weeks in a row, and then, after I finally remembered to buy them, stuck them in the baking cabinet and forgot them for two months. Kind of like I forgot about the SK cook book and was therefore completely freaked out when Amazon billed me for it in October.
Getting back to my point (which was not to demonstrate to you that I am a compulsive liar), yesterday I finally made the figgy challah because (a) I had time and (b) I needed to score a major culinary hit in order to restore my self-respect as a cook after Thursday's little "incident."
(Really? Do we want to know about this? Here goes: I promised my family--in particular EH who has grown disillusioned with the pizza available for take out in our tiny town-- home made pizza. I found a reliable recipe, messed with it as little as possible, and made two perfect pizza crusts, which I topped with a nice sauce and exactly the right amount of pizza cheese. Then, still following the recipe, I put the first pizza in the oven and burned it to a crisp. Fortunately, I had the second pizza. I reduced the oven temp by 50 degrees, lowered the time by 3 minutes, and baked it to perfection, which made it all the more painful when the pizza pan caught on the edge of the oven door and dumped the pizza face down on my kitchen floor. So now you know how I have come to doubt my skills as a cook and I think you'll understand why I needed to stage a culinary comeback.)
So getting back to the point for real this time, I made the figgy challah and I made a standard challah because I knew that dining among us would be those who would fear and resist challah innovation, seeing in it the the abandonment of all standards of decency and, probably, the end of civilization. And in defiance of those hyper-conservative diners, the figgy challah was lovely to look at.
|Here it is again, in case you forgot|
See? Here it is again so you can gaze upon it with awe.
It was also lovely to eat, kind of the upscale city-dwelling cousin to the raisin challah. Well worth the effort and sure to impress the guests, should we ever invite any.
Or at least the corners were. You may have observed its square-ish shape, which provides such striking visual contrast to the reliable oblong braid of the traditional/emergency backup challah. This is an exceptionally fun shape to braid, but if your dough is--just to give a random example that has nothing to do with me--a little less elastic than usual, and if as a result--again I'm not drawing from any recent personal experience at all here-- you stretch the fig-filled dough ropes out to their full length only to have them snap back to their original size so that you can only shape a squat and heavy loaf, you may find that the outside bakes beautifully whereas the inside remains somewhat gummy. Pudding like, if you will. Not that I would know; this is merely speculation.
Fortunately, there was the reliable, traditional, emergency backup challah, which was excellent at dinner and again as toast today. And just to preserve me from the ego-shattering effects of a third dud dinner, EH has kindly said that I am under no circumstances to think about making dinner tonight; he will take care of the whole affair by bringing some food in from a restaurant. He was very charming about how it would be his pleasure to get dinner and I shouldn't even think of cooking.
In fact, he was quite firm about it, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not on to something here . . .