Monday, January 2, 2012

Guest Post: Root Beer Challah

It's The Hazz's first guest post!  Who is the Hazz, you might ask?  Well, he's my dashing husband, kneading expert, and challah-tasting-critic (although he tends to say "This might be the best challah you've ever made" every week). 
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With Amanda out of town for the weekend staffing a Kadima convention, The Hazz decided to experiment with a new recipe: Root Beer Challah! After searching for several recipes for root beer bread online, I decided on the one found on root-beer.org. In addition to root beer, it also includes whole wheat flour (a little less than half), shortening* {see footnote} and molasses. Using these added ingredients, I meticulously estimated the proper amount of each to fit the proportions of Amanda's half-batch recipe.

Using my favorite brand of root beer: Sprecher, I mixed exactly (more or less) two thirds of the bottle with the shortening and heated the mixture in the microwave to precisely the approximate temperature Amanda recommends. I added the salt which created a nice sparkling effect when it hit the root beer--those who enjoyed kitchen chemistry experiments as children will appreciate this--followed by the molasses which, true the cliché, is rather slow. Next came the yeast, the oil, the flour, the stand-mixing and the kneading.
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I let the dough rise twice, just because I had heard it would have a nice effect. I made one loaf into a three braid and then attempted several times to make a four braid, failing each time even more than the last (not for any lack of proper instruction from the challah blog, just my own ineptness) before settling for two three braids. I placed the loaves in the oven and baked them at 350 for about 45 minutes precisely.
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The result was rather tasty. There was only a modest taste of root beer but distinct nonetheless. The softness also lasted several days which was nice.
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If I were to try this recipe again, I might do a few things differently:
  1. In using Amanda's half-batch recipe, I accidently used the amount of oil from the full batch. This wasn't so bad except that I had to use a lot more flour to compensate for the extra moisture which may have diluted the root beer flavor.  {Note from The Mrs: We weren't paid anything and did not receive anything from Sprecher to make this challah.  We just really love our local brewer.}
  2. I used Sprecher root beer since it is both my favorite and a local delicacy. It's one downside is that it uses an additive sweetener which we try to avoid in our cooking/baking. Next time I might use an all natural brand.
  3. Amanda recommends not mixing the salt and yeast directly together as it can kill the yeast. This was not a problem with this batch but I would hold off on the salt until later to be safe.
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NEXT UP: Coffee Milk {the Official State Drink of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations} Challah!

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*{Footnote}* The recipe also lists lard as an option but given the difficulty in finding kosher lard, I went the vegetable shortening.

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