Whoa!! That’s Really Red Bread (BBB December 2016)

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Bread Baking Babes December 2016 summary: recipe for Beet Challah; fear of sourdough and scary colours; expectations and realisations; a Bread Baking Babes project; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) December 2016: Beet Bread

beet bread Oh the weather outside is frightful….

It snowed again last night. And I’m not ready for winter. I’m never ready for winter.

I know. It’s December. Whenever I hear the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”, I think about how foolish the dreamers are. Sure, the ground all covered in glistening white is very pretty. But it’s coooooold.

So it’s the perfect time to hide in the kitchen and bake bread.

Cathy (Bread Experience) chose a brilliantly coloured bread for the BBBabes to bake this month: red beet challah. Then she threw a spanner in the works. She said that it would be a sourdough red beet challah.

Noooooo!! I don’t want to have another pet!

Luckily, Cathy is realistic and wrote:

If you want to use a faux sourdough, just adjust the hydration accordingly.
– Cathy, in message to BBBabes

Here’s how beet challah making went:

BBB Beet challah diary:

2 November 2016, 16:09 How fun! …except the sourdough starter part. I might be making a faux sourdough starter (my sourdough experiments have not gone overly well. :lalala: )

8 November 2016, 11:59 Looking at the first loaf that Cathy baked I see that it’s only just slightly pink. It reminds me of the beet cake (using our carrot cake recipe and replacing the carrots with beets) I made that I thought was going to be a pleasing brilliant red but ended up looking like gingerbread.

But I’m a little relieved. I’m not sure that I can stand the idea of serving luridly red bread.

12 December 2016, 11:34 This is great that the beets can be put in raw! (who me? lazy?? :stomp: :stomp: ) It will be much easier to simply grate the beets rather than bake them and puree them afterwards.

14 December 2016, 08:14 I’ve decided to get my starter going now and mix the dough tonight after dinner to bake tomorrow morning (I’m assuming that it won’t hurt it to be in the fridge overnight….) But, I think 1/2 tsp yeast is on the high side for the faux sourdough. I’ll use just a few grains – and then add a tiny bit more (perhaps 1/8tsp) to the actual dough.

Heh. Wish me luck!!

10:19 It’s ridiculously cold in the kitchen this morning. We made a mistake last night when we turned the heat down before going to bed… 10C is really toooo chilly, don’t you think?

So, dressed in winter clothes (scarf, hat, mittens – not really, it’s impossible to stir when wearing mittens) I put together the starter. Of course, I transgressed. I already was, anyway, by refusing to use a sourdough. But I continued with my transgression by adding 100% whole wheat flour instead of bread flour. And because I was using active dry yeast, I added even more water – to make up for the missing hydration that would be added by the sourdough starter. I ended up adding 30gm more water. And I only put in a few grains of yeast, planning to add more yeast when I mix the dough.

Overnight Levain:
25-30 grams sourdough starter (or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast)
100 grams bread flour (or all-purpose)
40 grams water
[…] [M]ix until thorough incorporated. Cover and let it rest at room temperature for 8 -10 hours. If your house is cold, it might take longer. It was cold in my house this weekend so I put it in a proofer at 70 degrees. To test if the levain is ready to use in the dough, perform the float test by taking a little bit of sourdough and dropping it in a bowl of water. If it floats, it is ready. If not, let it rest a while longer and try the test again.
-BBB Beet Challah recipe

Oh oh. I see that my transgressions have run even farther than I thought. My plan is to mix the dough tonight – so that means my starter is a “Throughout-the-day Starter”, doesn’t it?

Because it’s so cold in our house today too, I put the starter into the oven with only the light turned on. That should be 20-25C. (Sometimes, as I’m shivering, I’d like to climb into the oven myself.)

11:00 Everyone knows by now that I’m a freak… I worked out the weights and volumes for everything.

starter: […]
100 grams bread flour (or all-purpose) [3/4 cup]
dough: […]
700 grams bread flour or all-purpose flour (divided 450, 200, 50) [5 cups]
3 tablespoons sugar [38gm]
1 teaspoon fine sea salt [6gm]
– BBB beet challah recipe

That amount of salt seems low to me at only 0.75%. Did I miscalculate? I don’t think so. When I mix the dough tonight, I’m going to double the amount of salt.

15 December 2016, 07:50 Best laid plans and all that…. Last night, after a fabulous dinner, (T really is the best cook!) I just couldn’t bring myself to go into the kitchen to grate beets and mix bread dough.

Instead, I took the starter out of the oven (it had doubled nicely) and left it to sit overnight on the cold counter.

This morning the starter looked virtually the same as it did last night. (Rats!! I forgot to do the viability test!) Just in case it had no power left, I added more yeast as I mixed the dough (luridly pink, isn’t it?!)

What fun!! Rather than using the rather loud Magic bullet to pulverize the beets, I chose to grate them on the smallest plane of our box grater. There were only a few little chunks that slipped past and those were easily removed when I kneaded the dough.

Beet Bread Dough Wow! That is not the Maalox pink that I expected. That’s a deep rose red! I wonder if it will retain this wild colour.

17:54 I confess that I was hoping that the lurid colour would have dissipated a little as the dough rose. But no. It’s as hot pink as ever. As I shaped the bread, I tried not to be put off by the pervasive aroma of earthiness from the beets.

Don’t get me wrong. I love beets. But, do I love them in challah? And. More to the point, will T love them in challah?

And. Considering the coloure, are we going to have to eat this bread in the dark?

Beet Bread (BBB) I shaped the bread into two braids and two smallish Occhi di Santa Lucia, putting raisins in to make Santa Lucia’s eyes. The shaped bread is all rising in the oven with only the light on now. I haven’t decided if I’m going to add poppy seeds or not.

Just before covering it with the teatowel, looking at the shaped bread, we couldn’t help staring and recalling the rather frightening red wine pasta we made a while back.

18:58 What on earth is going on? Today there’s even more snow on the roads!! Ridiculous. SNOW. In December! It means we’ll can’t bicycle and will have to {gasp} walk. :stomp: :stomp:

We turned on the oven, removed the tea towel (oh oh… maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to use a white cotton tea towel) and just before putting the bread in, I brushed the tops with milk.

I was still waffling about the poppy seeds and was about to put the bread in the oven and then raced over to the shelf to scatter poppy seeds on one of the red red red braids.

That really is red coloured, isn’t it?!

19:32 After half an hour, the bread wasn’t quite done. And it was still frighteningly red on top. So I turned it all over to stop the bottoms from burning and baked it for 10 more minutes.

19:53 Well… it smells good. Not quite so earthy now that it’s baked. But it’s still awfully red.

Maybe by tomorrow morning, the colour will have faded….

Beet Bread We each had one of the small beet rolls for breakfast this morning.

Of course, we warmed them up and served them with butter and creamy goat’s cheese.

In spite of the red colour, it turns out that beet challah is quite good. (But next time, I think it may be wise to either par-cook the beets or use golden beets. The colour really is unnerving.)

Just don’t call it “challah” if you add whole grain flour! 50% of the people in our household have specific expectations about challah that do NOT include whole grains…. (I’m afraid it was thought that this bread was a bit too granola and Birkenstocks with heavy wool socks)

But 50% of the people in the household quite liked the bread, in spite of the colour. Which really wasn’t so frightening in the morning light.

Thank you for the stretch, Cathy!

Here is the BBB December 2016 Beet Challah recipe we were given. And here is what I did to it by making only half the recipe:

BBB Beet Challah
based on Cathy’s sourdough beet challah recipe, which, in turn is based on the recipes for Lora’s challah, Peter Reinhart’s challah formula in “Artisan Breads Everyday” and one of Sarah Owens’ sourdough breads

makes two small braids and two small buns


  • 1/16th tsp (0.25gm) active dry yeast ²
  • 70gm (70ml) water, at body temperature ³
  • 100gm (4/5 cup) 100% whole wheat flour 4


  • 450gm flour 4
       » 25gm 100% whole wheat flour
       » 400gm unbleached all-purpose flour
       » 25gm wheat germ
  • 6gm (1 tsp) fine sea salt (the BBB recipe calls for only 3gm)
  • 140gm raw beets
  • 1 Tbsp honey (the BBB recipe calls for 1+1/2 Tbsp sugar)
  • 50gm (50ml) water, body temperature (+ 20gm because the dough was too dry)
  • 1/8 tsp (0.5gm) active dry yeast ²
  • 1 Tbsp (13gm) sunflower oil
  • egg and egg yolk substitute 5
       » 1 egg (50gm), lightly beaten
  •    » 3gm (1 tsp) flax seeds, finely ground and 1 Tbsp water

  • 2gm (1/2 tsp) vanilla, optional


  • milk or cream (the BBB recipe calls for egg whites mixed with a little water)
  • poppy seeds, optional

Note that with the addition of honey and cream, if serving this challah to orthodox Jewish people, it CANNOT be served with meat.

  1. starter: 12 hours or so before you plan to make the bread dough: put starter flour in a bowl large enough for the final dough to double. In a small bowl, whisk the yeast into the starter water (do the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist to ensure the water is not too hot). When the yeast has dissolved, add it to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to mix well. If the mixture seems ridiculously dry, add a little more water and knead the leftover bits of flour in with your hands. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside on the counter or in the oven with only the light turned on.
  2. dough: Twelve or so hours later (in the morning of the day you plan to bake the bread), if you are brave enough, you can try using this test to see if you have to add yeast. (I am not brave. I automatically added more yeast.) To test if the levain is ready to use in the dough, perform the float test by taking a little bit of sourdough and dropping it in a bowl of water. If it floats, it is ready. If not, let it rest a while longer and try the test again.
    Dump flours, wheat germ and salt on top of the doubled starter, cover again with a plate and set aside for a few moments.
  3. beets: Trim and peel the beets. Using the finest part of a box grater, grate the raw beets into a medium sized bowl. Pour in honey.
  4. Pour water (do the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist to ensure the water is not too hot) into a smallish bowl and whisk in yeast until it has dissolved. Add the yeasted water, oil, egg, ground flax seed and water to the grated beets.
  5. Dump the beet mixture into the large bowl on top of the flours and salt. Using a wooden spoon, mix as well as you can. If it seems really really really dry, dribble a little more water onto the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl to make a slurry. Stir the slurry into the dry dough.
  6. kneading: Using one hand to turn the bowl and the other to dig down to the bottom to lift the dough up to the top, turn, fold, turn, fold, etc. the dough until it is smoothish and the starter is fully mixed in. As you knead, resist the temptation to add more flour or water.
  7. Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a plate and allow the dough to rise until almost completely doubled on the counter in a non-drafty area. Feel free to do a few folds and turns as the dough is rising.
  8. shaping: Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board (just the smallest dusting will be enough). Divide the dough evenly into 2 pieces. Cut each of those pieces into four and roll to form ropes. You should have 8 ropes.
    1. Use two of the ropes to make two pairs of occhi di Santa Lucia: make a tightly closed sideways “S” shape Lucia shape sideways 'S', one of the traditional shapes for Lucia bread. Place raisins in the centers to complete the eyes. Place the shaped S’s on parchment papered cookie sheet.
    2. Use the other 6 ropes to make two braids: For each braid, cross three ropes over each other and place on the parchment papered cookie sheet.

      Starting at the center of the ropes, braid to one end. Turn the cookie sheet around and braid the other end. This ensures that your braid will be widest at the center of the bread.

    Cover the shaped bread with a clean tea towel (that you don’t mind if it gets stained with beet juice), followed by a large plastic grocery bag and put in the oven with only the light turned on to rise until double. In a normal kitchen, this will take about 30 minutes. In our kitchen, it took about 90 minutes.

  9. baking: Just before baking, gently brush milk or cream all over tops of the shaped loaves. Be generous. Scatter poppy seeds overtop if you want. Put the trays onto the top shelf of the oven preheated to 400F. (We use the top shelf to prevent bread that has honey or sugar in it from burning on the bottom) Immediately turn the oven down to 350F. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning the pans once to allow for uneven oven heat.
  10. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a footed rack before eating. (They’re still baking when they are first removed from the oven.) If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat them after they have cooled completely. To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

Serve warm with butter and/or creamy goat cheese….


1.) starter The full BBB recipe calls for “25-30 grams sourdough starter (or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast [2gm])”. We really don’t want another pet, so I chose to use active dry yeast.

2.) yeast 1/2 teaspoon yeast in the starter seemed like too much. And no yeast at all in the final dough didn’t seem like enough. So I switched to adding just a few grains of yeast in the starter and 1/8 teaspoon in the dough itself (half recipe)

3.) Water The full BBB starter recipe calls for “40 grams water” with the 25-30 grams of sourdough starter. Because I was using yeast, I upped the hydration. Also, in the dough recipe itself, probably because of the addition of whole grain flour, the dough was quite dry. I added around 20gm more water to the dough itself. (I’m going to assume that you remember that I’ve droned on that you should NEVER use water from the hot water tap….)

4.) flour The BBB starter recipe calls for “100 grams bread flour (or all-purpose) [3/4 cup]”. Because I’m incapable of making bread with only white flour, I decided to use whole wheat flour instead. The full BBB final dough recipe calls for “700 grams bread flour”. I chose unbleached all-purpose instead and substituted with a little wheat germ and whole wheat flour. (Oops… remind me not to call bread “challah” if I do this – T’s will get very upset when they’re expecting fluffy white bread and discover that the resulting bread is “too grainy!”)

5.) Eggs The full BBB recipe calls for “2 large eggs, lightly beaten [100gm]” and “2 egg yolks, lightly beaten [34gm]” and to use the whites for a wash on the shaped loaves. I made another executive decision to substitute the egg yolk with ground flax seeds and water.

Believe it or not, hearty-healthy flaxseeds can be used as an egg substitute! Simply mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water until fully absorbed and viscous. Use in place of one egg.
– Katherine Martinelli, 6 brilliant egg substitutes that will work for any baker, She knows (sheknows.com): Baking without Eggs
One egg contains about one tablespoon of egg yolk and two tablespoons of egg white.
-The Cook’s Thesaurus (foodsubs.com), Eggs
Egg Conversions:
These approximations are based on a large (2-oz) egg. […] 1 whole egg = 3 tablespoons […] 1 egg yolk = 1 tablespoon
– Egg Size Equivalents – Egg Conversion Charts, What’s Cooking America? (whatscookingamerica.net)


Beet Bread

Bread Baking Babes Bread Baking Babes: Beet Bread (December 2016)

Cathy is our host for December 2016’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

I’ve been noticing lots of colorful breads made with beets show up in my FB feed over the past several weeks. […] It’s a beautiful bread. […] I decided to make a sourdough version. I went with a mashup of Lora’s challah recipe, Peter Reinhart’s challah formula in Artisan Breads Everyday and one of Sarah Owens sourdough breads. […]
[Y]our challenge for December will be to make Beet Bread. However, you can use any color beet you like (or can find) and you can shape it however you want – i.e. braided, rolls, sandwich loaf, round boule, triangle, rectangle, whatever.

We know you’ll want to make beet challah too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make beet challah in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 December 2016. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ December 2016 bread.

As Katie wrote:

Some of them are more purple, some a lovely shade of rose, and some are even gold or multicolored. Beets do come in a variety of shades…. Still, they all look rather festive


Beet Bread


This entry was posted in baking, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes, whine on by . Beet Bread

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9 responses to “Whoa!! That’s Really Red Bread (BBB December 2016)

  1. Tanna

    LOVE the Occhi di Santa Lucia shape. For a while I even considered cinnamon rolls for the dough … but I tamed that wild hair when the walnuts were rancid. Now I think it would be great with this dough after seeing your Occhi di Santa Lucia shape.
    Wasn’t it grand with the goat cheese!

  2. Lien

    Very pretty loaves and buns. I love how regular that long loaf is braided!
    I thought using pre-cooked is lazy (like I did), I didn’t even have to peel them :)
    wonderful St. Lucia buns too, I must say I like these small buns a lot in this colour.

  3. Bread Experience

    “It really wasn’t so frightening in the morning light.” Ha! ha! I’m glad 50% of the household enjoyed the challah. You did a superb job with the shaping! All of your loaves look fab!

  4. Elizabeth Post author

    Me too, Kelly, me too. I was a little nervous that the bread would taste a little too beety – don’t get me wrong, I love beets, but the dough had a distinctly earthy aroma. Happily, the beet flavour is not really apparent at all.

    Thank you, KarenK. I’m glad to hear that my calculations aren’t too annoying. As for the additions, I think that next time, I’ll grind the wheat germ finely to remove some of its grainy quality. Even though, the grainy quality of the bread, as I made it, makes it perfect to go with stew or soup.

    To bad about your walnuts going rancid, Tanna, because I bet that walnuts would be an excellent addition to this bread! And yes, it is grand with goat’s cheese.

    Thank you, Lien. Isn’t it interesting? I considered the long straight braid to be a bit of a failure. I had always planned to give one of the braids as a present to my lovely friends who supply us with beautiful farm-fresh eggs, and was just a little disappointed that choosing between poppy-seeds or no poppy-seeds for them was made into a no-brainer by the dull straight shape. And yes, the Lucia-shaped buns do look pretty in red, don’t they?

    Thank you, Cathy. I’m glad you can laugh at my silly fears. And 50% really are enjoying the beet bread. One of us had it again for breakfast this morning – warmed, with butter and honey. It’s hard to say which is better – with goat’s cheese or with honey. Ooooooh, there’s still bread left; how about with goat’s cheese AND honey?

    Startling is putting it mildly, Katie. Oh! Silly me, why on earth didn’t I think of having the bread with red wine? I’ve been foolishly trying it with tea once and coffee another time. Next time: red wine it is. Thank you for setting me straight.


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