It is not every day that I have 11 egg yolks in my fridge. But after making a double batch of meringue frosting (all egg whites) for a Dairy-Free Frosted Birthday Cake, I did. What happened to the twelfth yolk, you may ask? I (accidentally) carefully placed it in the drain of my kitchen sink instead of the bowl with all its brethren. Apparently I was bored and distracted by the the time I hit a dozen eggs.
So, with 11 egg yolks I had three options: make hollandaise, custard, or challah. Hollandaise was out; no one in my family would eat it. Custard was a toss-up: perhaps the boys would love a homemade pudding, but it could just as easily go the other. Challah, however, is no-fail in this house. So I settled on a recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s blog, Peter Reinhart’s Challah.
There are two things about this challah that are different from other bread recipes I’ve made before: first, it used all yolks instead of some whole eggs and some divided; second, it calls for the initial rise to be done in the fridge, at least overnight but for up to four days.
I posted some pictures of the dough rising on the Chick in the Kitchen Facebook page, including a photo of the dough after the final (third!) rise and before baking. My dough took a little more flour to come together than the recipe suggests, and I did choose to add the vanilla. The fridge rise was amazing. When we opened the door of the fridge the next morning, it looked as though the dough had tried to escape the bounds of the bowl — it had more than doubled in size. I don’t know a lot about the chemistry of bread-baking, but it was very interesting to experience this “cool” rise cycle.
I choose to make 8 large challah rolls (we call them “nose” rolls because of the nubbin in the middle) and 1 large braided challah. The dough was very easy to work with after the first rise, and braided easily. I used both the recommended thump test (the bottom of the bread should sound hollow) and took the internal temperature of the bread (should be 190 degrees F) when done. I overbaked the rolls by about 2 minutes, so if you are making smaller breads watch the time carefully.
This challah was fantastic. J. said it was hands-down the best homemade challah he had ever tasted, and that it was just as good as something from a bakery. The texture of the bread was light but still with a bit a chewiness, and it didn’t taste overly sweet or eggy. A. preferred slices of the challah which was slightly more moist than the rolls. G. liked them both, but told me he still prefers the Pull-Apart Honey Challah Rolls.
Although the recipe takes two days to complete, it’s not any more complex than any other yeast bread. You just have to have the time. If I were ever in a position again where I had a large number of egg yolks to use up, this would be my go-to recipe. But since I don’t have imminent plans to whip a dozen egg whites, it won’t be in the near future.