Twenty years ago it started…my sister was getting married in January and my siblings and I, and our spouses for those of us that were married at the time, decided for Christmas that year we were going to do something different. We all were feeling poor with the wedding festivities so we decided to pick names and pick a theme…that year the gift had to be $5 or less and color that we picked out of a hat. We NEVER in a million years thought we were starting something that would evolve through the years and become the highlight of our Christmas gatherings each year. We had so much fun we have continued the idea for 20 years. Each year a different creative theme…everything from creating a video, fulfilling certain criteria about color, size, store, or even having to recruit a friend to purchase and wrap the gift on our behalf after describing the person we chose…That year it was hilarious because none of us knew what any of the gifts would be…it was a surprise for everyone!!
It truly has become the stories that are behind the gifts each year rather than the gift itself. It has become such a tradition we have people who ask our family each year, “what is the theme this year?” and as each of the nieces and nephews graduate from high school they get to join our club haha! My daughter has been participating for three years now and this year we chose her theme…which is getting harder and harder each year as you can imagine after 20 years. Anyway, we each had to pick a name and a decade: 20′s, 30′s, 40′s etc and then do something with that to represent the gift. It was pretty open ended unlike some other years with many requirements. Stick with me…my story does have some relevance to baking/my blog haha…my brother had picked my name and the 1930′s. He remembered reading my blog about cooking with our Grandma and how I said I didn’t have a cool sifter. He put together a vintage baking gift for me consisting of a sifter, apron, and measuring cups. It was incredible thoughtful and just warmed my heart. I had to share the story and a picture on my blog!
I just loved my gift…and if you can believe it this is my first apron!! With all of us married, my parents joining in and now my daughter there are 11 of us participating. It is so much fun…all of the 9 remaining nieces and nephews all watch to see everyone’s creative presentations. In case you are wondering I had my sister and the 1920′s…being the former teacher that I am I did a bit of a history lesson in a poem with small gifts along the way, ending with prohibition/bootlegging and she got a bottle of wine we found with a label that went along with the 1920′s. The guys at Total Wine got a good laugh at us the night we were there and they were trying to help us!
So, hopefully you stayed with my little story so you can hear about this fabulous bread we made this time. I have to tell you I did not have high hopes…I mean really who could that baked the challah…that bread was so amazing. I didn’t have the wheat or rye flour and was thinking if I really wanted to make this and remembered why I started this group in the first place…to TRY new things!! So I proceeded. This bread, for being very simple sure takes a long time. I kept thinking as I was making this bread, how people did it back in history when there was no store to buy bread. Baking for the family had to have been a full time job…that and doing the laundry!!
This bread starts with a sponge which I did at 7am in the morning so I would have enough time. The sponge needed to sit for 6-8 hours!
After the rest, you add the remaining ingredients…more yeast, flour, salt, and water. Not a whole lot of ingredients go into this bread…very simple. This dough sits for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Next, you shape the dough into the round loaf. This is done with repeated folding, turning, flipping and cupping of the dough. The recipe said to then put the ball into a banneton, basket, or colander lined with a floured towel. I had to go with a bowl…seemed to work out fine.
This dough rests for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours!
Finally ready to bake the bread…I had to improvise a bit…no tiles or baking stone so I used an upside down baking sheet. I also did not spray the inside of my oven with water. In my haste, I also forgot to score the top…I was afraid this would cause a problem but I think it just created a little air pocket on top.
This bread gets baked for 60-70 minutes. It wasn’t done until 7pm…can you imagine if I was making it for dinner because the recipe says it still needs to sit and cool for at least 20 minutes. We tried it later that night and were pleasantly surprised!!! This bread was SO good and SO tasty!! We just did not see that coming. Everyone who tasted it thought the same thing. I would totally make this bread again which is a good thing since I now have rye and wheat flour haha!!