Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Challah with Red Bean Paste

One of the more fun things about living in Indonesia is seeking out and experimenting with new ingredients.  One ingredient that I love, but had not yet used myself, is red bean paste.  Sweetened red beans are used in lots of Asian desserts... dumplings, pancakes, buns, icy desserts.  Sounds weird, but it's good stuff... sweet, but kinda earthy in a way.  My favorite red bean dessert is deep-fried, sesame-covered red bean balls.

I found a bag of red bean paste at the grocery store and bought it immediately.  Next was to figure out what to do with it...  I wasn't quite ready for the sesame balls (haven't yet figured out which of the many exotic flours at the store is the glutinous rice flour, plus deep frying scares me), but I was inspired by some bread that Tim brought home for me from the Japanese grocery store by his office... sweetish, soft white sandwich bread with swirls of red beans throughout.  Mmm.  

Mini oven.  Big flavor.
I decided to go for something similar to the Japanese bread; a fusion of something I know how to make, sweet challah bread with sesame seeds, with my new ingredient, red bean paste.  Boom.  I fused the crap out of it. It was pretty awesome.

To get the thick red bean paste into the dough (the basic challah from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day), I split the dough into 3 equal(ish) pieces, rolled them out into long, thin pieces, then topped each with a long, thin log of red bean paste.  I rolled the dough around each of the bean paste logs to encase them and then braided them together in the normal fashion.  This worked pretty well, but ultimately the bean paste wasn't spread out through the dough enough for my taste- it was limited to 3 big blobs in each slice:

On my second try, I rolled the dough out the same way, but rather than logs of bean paste, I flattened it out to the extent I could and spread it across the dough, then rolled each of the 3 dough pieces (kinda like how you add the nuts and cinnamon sugar to make the spirals in cinnamon buns) and then braided them together.  The red bean paste was better dispersed through the dough using this method (I think... I sent the second loaf to work with Tim without cutting it open and thus did not see the inside).

UPDATE: I know you were all waiting with bated breath... Tim took a photo of the bread swirled with the red bean paste using the second methodology... bean disbursement is much better: