“You should be a CSA spokesperson.”

Maybe I should be.

I certainly am pretty enamored with our regular haul from Penn’s Corner. Wednesday night cooking is usually the highlight of the week, although in this case I knew I would have to wait until the weekend to tackle my most exciting project. I had made braided challah for the first time last November, using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Today I tried it again, with free range eggs from Nu Way Farm.

Holy cow. Er, chicken.

The loaves are almost double the size from last fall, which were of course made with store-bought eggs. The color is richer, the flavor deeper and everything about this challah is better than what I baked before. When my friend Lauren at Burghilicious told me she would pay for a share from Penn’s Corner just to get the eggs, I knew we were in for something special, I just didn’t truly realize how awesome it would be until I baked with them myself.

Like last time, I called upon my secret weapon (mom’s Kitchen-Aid mixer) to do the dirty work.

And when I say dirty work, I mean dirty. The mixer is barely large enough to accommodate the dough. I remembered that from before – and SK fully warns that that’s the case – but it’s still easier than doing the mixing and kneading by hand. Just be aware that you’re likely to end up with something like this halfway through your process:

Because this is baking (read: science), I didn’t deviate from the recipe. The only thing I added was an extra egg wash after the first wash/rise before I put the loaves into the oven. I also forgo raisins, sesame seeds and poppy seeds out of principle.

Good thing it was in the mid-80s today. On May 1. So I could bake bread in a hot kitchen. But the smell alone was almost worth it, wafting outside while the kids played on the deck and we had our first cook-out of the “summer”. And when the timer went off, I pretty much squealed taking the results out of the oven.

Two benefits to the bread getting so large I had to cut it apart: sneak peak of the luscious texture inside, and the ability to snag a small bite without damaging the integrity of the outside. When I actually took stock of how much bread we had, though, I decided to send some home with the brother and leave some with the mom. Plus, then I got to actually slice into a loaf right away.

Absurd, right!? I cannot wait to eat a whole piece myself. So I’m taking it to brunch tomorrow as we cheer Jessie on in the Pittsburgh Marathon. We’ll sit around eating egg bread while thousands of people run 26 miles. Nice.

Nutritional information for one slice of challah (1/20th of a loaf, so 40 servings per recipe), approximate: 158 calories, 6.3 grams fat, .6 grams saturated fat, 26.9mg cholesterol, 183.1mg sodium, 21.7 grams carbohydrates, .7 grams fiber, 2.6 grams sugar, 3.6 grams protein.

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