A couple of months ago, I made my parents some ciabatta for their anniversary. I got them some other stuff, too. I’m not that much of a miser. I might have got them some other stuff. I probably did. Look, I can’t remember. This isn’t important.
Anyway, the ciabatta went down like diarrhea in a jacuzzi, mainly because I buggered it up so much. The look of crippling disappointment on my mum’s face as I handed her the ciabatta was so wounding that I planned to leave it at that, but then my mum came to visit. She started looking through cookbooks, found an impossible-looking plaited loaf, pointed at it, bellowed “MAKE ME THIS NEXT!” and fixed me with the most menacing stare I had ever seen in my entire life. “Fine,” I thought. “I’ll make you this fucking loaf, and it’s going to BLOW YOU THE FUCK AWAY”. So I did.
HERE’S HOW YOU MAKE A CHALLAH LOAF, THEN.
STEP ONE - Make a normal bread dough, then add milk and eggs and sugar and whatnot until your hands get all cemented up. Try washing your hands, but only really succeed in covering your entire kitchen with rock hard eggy cack that never, ever comes off.
STEP TWO: Practice plaiting the dough on some tea towels. See? See how seriously I’m taking this? I’m determined to get this absolutely right. I cannot disappoint my parents again.
STEP THREE: Divide the dough into three strips. Make them as identical as you possibly can, because there’s a lot riding on this. Give your parents any more substandard bread and they might stop remembering to invite you for Christmas. You don’t want to spend another sad Christmas day drinking watery soup at the orphanage. You really don’t.
STEP FOUR: Plait the bloody thing. Hang on, you’ve done OK. This is really working out. You’re halfway through and you haven’t made a single mistake yet. Things are finally going your way. Your mum won’t regret giving birth to you quite as much if you carry on like this. Come on! You can do it! Put it in the oven!
STEP FIVE: You’ve done it! Holy shit! Look at that! It’s perfect! It smells amazing, it looks incredible and there’s a proper hollow sound when you tap the base of it, not the dull clunk you usually hear when you cook bread. You’ve finally done it. You’ve finally managed to produce something that will make your parents proud of you. You’re on easy street now, my boy! Nothing can stop you. Imagine the look of delight on your mum’s face when she gets a load of this!
STEP SIX: Oh. She still looks quite disappointed, doesn’t she? Bugger. Phone the orphanage. Those fireside seats fill up quickly on Christmas day.
Recipe stolen from How To Bake by Paul Hollywood.