I probably I hadn’t baked a challah for well over a year. Before that I had been baking challah often and even became quite proficient at the fours strand braid, without having to refer back to the how-to diagrams in the Bread Bible. So having mixed up a bread machine recipe for challah in the morning I had a risen dough waiting for shaping.
Actually I thought I had it filed under memory and proceeded to braid the first challah without referring to the book. With four strands laid out before me, I began braiding that dough like it was nobody’s business, only to discover that as I was coming to the end, the whole thing wanted to lean over as if it wasn’t properly supported.
I tried straightening it out but that didn’t seem to help much, it just kept leaning over. I had done it all wrong – it didn’t look terrible but it wasn’t right. I wanted to take it apart and start over but by now the strands were sticking together and I would have made an even bigger mess of it all, so I left it as it was. There was one more challah to braid - I would redeem myself with this one - so I opened up the Bread Bible to the instructions for the four strand braid and sure enough I had completely forgotten that you had to bring the strands under instead of over as I had done. I had done this before so I thought I would get the hang of it again - this one would look like the challahs I had made in the past. Instead, the instructions were confusing me, and as I braided the strands I got a loose mess and not a tightly braided loaf. As though that wasn't enough, for some reason the dough seemed to be softer and it wasn’t holding its shape at all. Well now I was totally frustrated, and this time I just could not leave it as it was, so I tried to take the braid apart but the strands were sticking together even more than with the first challah because of the soft dough. What a mess! This one was worse than the first one so, exasperated, I bunched up the whole mass into a ball and divided it into three pieces, and rolled each piece out to braid the easier three strand braid. I began braiding from one end to the other, completely forgotting that you are suppose to start to braid from the center, braiding one end and then flipping it and braiding the other end. I hadn't shaped the strands very carefully either, so instead of having a nicely shaped loaf tapering at either end, it resembled a tornado.
Sometimes a loaf of bread just doesn’t turn out as well as we would like! The baked challah tasted good, it just didn’t look pretty. The next time I make challah I will practice on four pieces of strings like I used to before moving onto the dough.
As a comparison, I made this challah a while ago and is what I had hoped these challahs would have looked like.