First Attempt at Hindu Challah: Fail.
A couple of weeks ago, I got to see Kritika and her mom, grandma, and aunt! We went to a popular temple, Shreenathji, which is about an hour from Udaipur (more on that later). I thought that seeing Kritika and her family would be the perfect occasion to bake my first loaf of bread in India. However, ovens are very hard to find around here. I was telling this to Gaurav, my host brother, and he said that Preeti (my host mother) actually has a little oven--perfect! On the morning of the day that Kritika was arriving to Udaipur, I set to work making Hindu challah--I say it is 'Hindu' because I made it eggless since Kritika's family, like many Hindus, do not eat any meat, including eggs. Perhaps 'eggless challah' is somewhat of an oxymoron, but oh well! :)
I shaped my loaves and let them rise and then Preeti Ji took out her oven, which I then realized could not have been more than 4 inches tall AND that it had one temperature setting...oops! At this point, I knew the bread would not turn out right, but of course, I was still going to experiment, especially since Preeti Ji was encouraging me to hurry up and squash the loaves flatter so they would fit inside the oven and to use the oven quickly incase the power goes out. After squashing the challah into fat pancakes and putting it on the oven, Preeti Ji informed me that it should be done in 10 minutes...this is when I realized that the one temperature setting that the oven has is REALLY high! So I checked back in 15 minutes or so and the outside of the bread was burning! We unplugged the oven and let it bake in the lower temperature for awhile. I was going to continue plugging and unplugging the oven in order to bake the challah, but then the power went out! In the end, the challah was a bit under-baked inside (and very squashed haha) but still tasted alright--although it certainly looked very funny! I left a loaf with my host family and brought one with me to see Kritika and her family!
I have since learned that my Hindi teacher, Madhu, has a toaster oven. It is very small, but I could make it work to redeem my Hindu challah! I was all set to bake today, but then Madhu told me that the top coil of the oven does not work. Of course! Not sure now if I will bother reviving my Eric Pallant sourdough starter that I dried and brought with me (sorry Eric!)...unless I befriend a baker at one of the bakeries in town! :)