Disclaimer: I am not Jewish, nor do I claim to be. Although I did date a Jewish guy for four years. And I am a New Yorker. So that must count for something right?
And I grew up on challah bread.
Not just any challah bread, mind you. But Zaro's Bakery challah bread.
If you are a New Yorker, then hearing that name should have made you feel all warm and tingly inside. In fact, you are probably not even sitting here anymore reading this. In all likelihood, you are already out the door, on your way to Grand Central or Penn Station or the Port Authority, all of which house Zaro's outposts (so convenient for the commuter who wishes bring a loaf of freshly baked bread home to his family for dinner. If he can make it through the train ride without devouring the entire loaf. Solution - buy two.) willing to brave frigid temperatures, holiday crowds, and other such apocalyptic conditions in the hopes of procuring a loaf of this heavenly bread.
And if you are not a New Yorker. All is not lost. Here's what you need to do. Open up a new tab in your browser. Go to www.expedia.com. Book a flight over here. And try this bread. Your life will probably not be complete until you do.
After spending my entire life eating what I firmly believe is the best challah bread known to man, I was doubtful as to whether or not the whole grain challah with cranberries and orange zest from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day was going to be able to live up to my standards. But being the devout HBinFive member that I am, and seeing as how this is the bonus recipe for this month. And it is Hanukkah after all. And I maintain that everyone is Jewish on Hanukkah. And, thus, wouldn't it be kind of heretical for me to go a whole holiday season without any of this traditional sweetbread? I decided to suspend my disbelief long enough to give it a try.
So I followed the recipe from HBinFive, which can be found on Michelle's site. Almost to a tee. Except that I swapped the amounts of whole wheat and AP flour. Mainly because rumor has it that the bread is a little too dense if made as instructed.
And how does it compare? Well. It's not Zaro's. But I don't think it's claiming to be. With the cranberries and orange zest, it has a whole different flavor. Not better or worse. But different. Still delicious. I've already managed to devour a quarter of a loaf all by myself. Thankfully, I still have three more loaves worth of dough left in my fridge.
If this inspires you at all in any way to get into the kitchen, turn on your oven and start baking, you should join us over at HBinFive! The plan is to cook our way through Jeff Hertzberg's and Zoe Francois's newest book - Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. And yes, I know baking bread seems like an intimidating thing. But as of a month ago, the thought of baking with yeast made me run for cover. (Oh how times have changed...) So if I can do it, anyone can.
At the least, stop by Big Black Dog on December 15th to see what the other HBinFive members did with their challah bread!
Also, this bread has been Yeastspotted!