FESTIVE FOOD:
Part 7 - Famous Silver Springs Pecan Pie
The Humble Turnip

FESTIVE FOOD:
Part 8 - Amazing X-Rated Bread

Anna's Challah

This last one's not local at all, but it brings a lot to the table. It's a big, fluffy, gorgeous braided loaf that makes a nice centerpiece if you're not doing the turkey thing. And it's elicited some pretty high praise; some have described the satisfaction they feel upon eating it in shockingly sensual terms. Plus it's got a strangely redemptive quality to it. The pecan pie can turn out runny, the cranberries unloved, the green beans scorched... but if you serve the bread, everyone will think it was a wonderful meal. Really, it's amazing. It's also technically Challah, the Jewish bread served at the Sabbath table and at other celebratory meals. 

Challah - 2 large braided loaves

For the braids:

2 tbsp. active dry yeast (I use fast-acting, only one rise)
4 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup honey
1 3/4 cups very warm tap water
2 cups unbleached white flour (more to come)
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 large egggs
5-6 cups more unbleached white flour

For the Glaze:

1 egg
poppy seeds

Measure the yeast,salt, honey, and very warm tap water into the bowl and stir. Mix in the first 2 cups of flour (all egg breads take part of the flour early to give the eggs something to hold onto.) Mix in the oil and 3 large eggs.

Add four more cups of flour gradually. As soon as working with the spoon or whisk becomes heavy going, clean it into the bowl and switch to mixing the flour in with your bare hands. (You've begun kneading right in the bowl.) This dough is easy to knead because it is soft and yielding.

Dump the dough onto a floured board (or counter top) and knead in some of the remaining flour. Don't force in every last bit of flour that you can. The exact amount of flour you will use will vary depending on the moisture in the air. If it's still sticky after 8 cups of flour, go ahead and add a little more. If you've reached a cohesive ball after only 6 1/2 cups, stop! Baking is an inexact science. Knead for 10-15 minutes.

Divide dough in two, then divide each half into three pieces. Roll the pieces into strands and braid. Place on greased baking sheet and let rise in warm place til double in bulk - for 1/2 hour (if very warm) to a couple of hours (if it's cool). I usually place my loaves in an oven that's been warmed at the lowest temperature, then turned off. It takes 30-45 minutes.

After it's risen, preheat the oven to 350. Beat an egg til fairly smooth and brush on loaves gently so they won't fall. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. When oven reaches 350, bake on middle rack for 30-45 minutes, checking bottom to see that it is browned.

Enjoy! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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