Last week was terribly stressful.
My oldest daughter started school, I discovered I might be a victim of identity theft, we had torrential rain (or what seemed like) everyday and at some point, someone in the house fell sick. (runny nose, slight fever and the like) But the person who had the most stressful/difficult week was probably my husband.
The following might sound terribly naïve and perhaps, offensive to the ultra feminists of the world, but….um…… I thoroughly enjoy cooking for my husband.
YES. It is true. I gain great amounts of satisfaction watching him eat whatever culinary creation or mainstay I made for that day’s menu. While I do find solace in the process of cooking and benefit from its outcome, I’ve determined that cooking/baking for my husband elevates my passion for cooking/baking to a whole other level.
Because cooking for him has, and I suspect, will always be a demonstration of my love for him, made more pleasant by the fact that he, in tandem with his nature and character, has never, EVER, requested any meal, much less a specific meal, from me. Therefore, cooking for him has never felt like a chore, but rather an opportunity for me to alter his mood, lift his spirit and, if I am lucky, discover his new favorite food.
One honestly might feel that this cheesy, non-verbal display of emotion is one-sided. I guarantee you, it is not. With nary a complaint, he has volunteered, and sometimes scarified, his taste buds so that I might broaden my culinary horizons by taking the occasional adventurous route. You simply cannot buy that depth of love and dedication just anywhere.
As I was saying, my husband had a rough week. While he never admitted to the stressful time, the heavily burrowed, almost permanent crinkles in his forehead were a dead give away. To help evaporate some of the tension, I made a pot full of lentil and sausage soup, along with my husband’s beloved challah bread (HOLLA!!).
For all you afraid of making your own bread (of which I am one), I promise you that this recipe is simple and not the least bit scary or difficult. The recipe below is relatively direct (made some minor changes) and is an absolute homerun with its crusty, golden brown exterior and buttery, moist and airy interior.
While I can’t say that the challah bread completely dissipated the week’s disasters, I can say that the smell of baked bread warmly welcomed my tattered husband with open arms and that one bite of the bread was enough to remind him that whatever ‘it’ is, really isn’t that bad.
Modified from America’s Test Kitchen’s, Baking Illustrated
3-3 ¼ cups bread flour
1 packet of instant yeast
1/3 cup of sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg separated (reserve the egg white for the egg wash)
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup of room temperature water, plus 1 tablespoon (For egg wash)
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (optional)
In the standing mixer, add the ½ cup of water and packet of yeast. Let sit for 5-8 minutes, or until you see foam at the top. In a medium sized bowl, mix 3 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Once the foam has settled on top, add the two eggs, the egg yolk and melted butter. Using the paddle attachment, mix the liquid ingredients until combined. Switch to the dough hook. Turn mixer on to low and slowly add flour until a ball of dough forms. Mix on low for about 5 minutes, adding the remaining ¼ cup of flour a tablespoon at time to prevent the dough from completely sticking to the sides of the bowl. The ball of dough should ultimately form itself around the dough hook.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and cover dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. Gently deflate the dough, cover it and let rise again for 1 hour.
Move the dough to a lightly floured surface. You can, at this point, divide the dough into three long pieces and braid them together to make the traditional looking challah bread (see photo). Let bread sit in a warm, dry place for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the egg white and the 1-tablespoon of water to create an egg wash. Lightly brush the egg was over the challah bread and, if using, sprinkle dough with sesame seeds. Bake for 35-40 minutes on rack in the middle of the oven. Remove from oven once bread is golden brown on top.