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Barry's best bread for the Challah-days.

Byline: Best of . . . The Register Guard

Regular readers of this feature know that Team Best of ... likes bread. We especially like challah.

This sweet, white bread is readily available in local supermarkets and bakeries. Although it is traditionally served on Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest), it can be eaten anytime by anyone.

This year, we made turkey sandwiches on it after Thanksgiving. And we've been known to eat it right out of the bag, like the ducks at Alton Baker Park do.

Challah is often associated with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). But it can be served during Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays - except for Passover, when tradition calls for using only dough that is not allowed to rise.

While matzo is flatter than the state of Florida, challah is more pumped up than Mr. Universe. With its bronzed, braided contours, its appearance is not unlike the well-sculpted muscles of a champion bodybuilder, complete with a spray-on tan.

If we didn't know any better, we'd say this bread's been juicing.

But that's just the way it looks, which can be confusing because sometimes the most beautiful challahs are not the tastiest. That's what we found when we set out to sample some of the local loaves.

At least two of the contestants were so shiny and perfectly shaped, they looked like stage props. Unfortunately, they didn't taste much better.

In all, we sampled six loaves: from Barry's, Market of Choice, Humble Bagel, Bread Stop, Palace and Le Petit Gourmet. Before starting, we contacted a challah authority, Mili, a friend of a mother-in-law of a friend.

In addition to being an Orthodox Jewish schoolteacher, Mili is apparently the best baker in her New York City neighborhood. She is also now an honorary member of Team Best of ...

Mili described two basic types of challah - lots of eggs and no eggs - and listed some of the other specific varieties, such as raisin bread, wheat bread and a new style gaining favor in the Big Apple that's sort of a French bread hybrid.

Traditionally, a piece of dough is torn off before baking and burned up in the oven as an offering. Braiding increases the surface area of the tasty crust, which maximizes the flavor.

Without the crust, challah can have a tendency to taste a bit like a glorified hot dog bun. Some of the thin-skinned loaves we sampled definitely fit that description. They were bland and airy, and they would have made Mili very upset.

Pork hot dogs aside, there really is no wrong way to serve challah. It can be sliced or torn, toasted or not, served with butter and jam or turned into french toast or sandwiches. For simplicity's sake, we tested only plain challahs, which we ate completely naked.

Mili says the most common mistake in baking challah is adding too much flour, which tends to make the bread overly dry. Several of the lesser loaves we tasted were guilty of that infraction.

In fact, one of them would have made a fine room dehu- midifier. It grew drier before our very eyes and resembled a giant burled crouton by the time we were done with it.

But the challah we tasted from Barry's was not dry at all. Neither was it flavorless, nor greasy, nor salty. Aside from the fact that it's not kosher, we could find little reason to fault this bread.

Moist and eggy through and through, it boasted a nice golden crust and the perfect amount of sweetness. Barry himself could not be reached for comment, but we have a feeling this is a recipe that took him years to perfect.

It's a challah that would make Mili proud.

BEST CHALLAH Barry's Espresso & Bakery Where: 804 E. 12th Ave., 2805 Oak St. Phone: 343-1141 (12th Avenue), 343-6444 (Oak Street)

Worried you're not getting enough carbs in your diet? You can visit the Best of ... Mini Carb Counter and archive at www
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Title Annotation:Food; Lots of braided loaves look the part, but leave it to a New York-style bakery to get it right
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 22, 2006
Previous Article:Wrapping wanes and revels begin.

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