Sunday, October 15, 2006

Challah




This is really a very easy recipe, but it needs some attention and timing. Since challah is so good in the morning, and since there's a big raising lag in the middle, Your best bet is to make the dough the night before and then wake up at least an hour and half before you want to start eating it.

Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

1. In a large bowl:
combine 1 package (2 1/4) teaspoons active dry yeast and
1/2 cup of warm (105 to 115 F) water. (Not too hot, or you'll kill the yeast!)

2. Add:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugars
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Mix until thoroughly blended.

3. Gradually stir in:
2 1/2 cups bread flour. (By which is meant some less refined, less bleached, more glutinate flour. I didn't have any on hand this time, and substituted all-purpose flour, and it turned out fine. I feel bad, though.)

4. Knead for about 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands or bowl. (Or until you sense enough of a change in the dough, you're tired, and you worry about denaturing the dough; this is one sticky dough.)

5. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, turn it over to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place (75-80 F) until doubled in volume.

6. 1-1/2 hours later, punch down the dough. Knead briefly. Cover it, and refrigerate it until it's almost doubled again. 4-12 hours.

7. Shaping the dough:
Get out a baking sheet, grease it, and dust a bit of cornmeal over it. This is the surface on which you'll braid your challah strands.

The picture above is a four-strand challah loaf, but a three-strand loaf is easier. Start by dividing the dough into equal parts. Roll each part out into one-inch thick snakes. Dust the snakes with rye flour if you have it, other flour if you don't; this step helps you keep the snakes separate. Secure the top end by pressing the snakes together. If you need instructions on braiding, the Joy of Cooking actually has diagrams. The tail-end of the braid can just be tucked under the loaf.

8. Whisk together and brush over the loaf (as much as possible, conserve the rest):
an egg
a pinch of salt

9. Cover, start heating oven at 375, and let the dough rise another 45 minutes or so, until almost doubled. (At this point, the best place to let the dough rise is certainly on top of the oven.)

10. Brush what's left of the egg from step 8 over the dough. If you like poppyseeds, now's your chance to add them.

11. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

****

Although this was delicious, I'm already starting to imagine alternatives. Melted butter would be so much better than vegetable oil, wouldn't it? What would happen if I added another egg yolk early on? What if I added a pinch or two of cinnamon?

10 Comments:

Anonymous mrh:

Yum! I haven't made challah since I was 12 or so, but you may have inspired me to make a loaf for Friday.

10/16/2006 08:34:00 AM  
Anonymous I don't pay:

I live in a neighborhood where very good challah is widely available, and since my wife's been working full time that's what we've mostly eaten. When she's home she uses a recipe very similar to this one. She uses the bread machine for the mixing and kneading, then braids and bakes on a sheet, with an egg wash and sesame seeds. The kids and I still prefer hers to the best of the 2 dozen brands available, and very often have French toast on Saturday or Sunday morning with the rest, although now that the kids are big and hungry there often hasn't been enough left.

10/16/2006 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

I don't understand the appeal of bread machines. Kneading dough is so easy and fun! (Ok, I'll admit that part of my impetus for making bread on Sat. night was the desire to hit something after an argument.) The only compelling reason I can see for a bread machine is that it would give the dough a safe warm place to rise.

Caveat to all of the above: I have an irrational prejudice against kitchen machinery.

10/16/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous I don't pay:

It's been a good compromise for us; with it, things get made that wouldn't otherwise, it doesn't take up much space even when out and gets put away afterwards. Many good cooks cannot abide some parts of the baking process, and the mess it makes. We use it as mixer, kneader, rising-space, seldom as oven.

10/17/2006 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Hmm, what cooking process can I not abide?

I think I'm going to have to go with peeling tomatoes. I do it the right way (boiling water, then icy water), but it annoys me every single time.

10/17/2006 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Jay Sundahl:

You might like julekaka aka julekake, or julekage.
This recipe is close to what I use. Most of the other recipes add candied fruit.

10/17/2006 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Cardamon and raisins are always pure gold. I'll have to look into other versions of that receipe, since I'm a little suspicious of the flour quantity here, but it looks like the general idea is delicious.

10/18/2006 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Jay Sundahl:

Here's the proportions from the Julekaka recipe I use for a 1.5 lb loaf:

1 egg + water to make 9oz
1/2 t ground cardamom
1 t salt
4 t sugar
1/4 c softened butter
3 c bread flour
1 1/2 t yeast
1/2 c raisins

I tend to do the dough in a bread machine, what can I say, I'm a heathen.

10/18/2006 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

That looks MUCH more reasonable a quantity of flour. I'm alway a bit suspicious of receipes that require loads of flour as well as loads of yeast, but then, I'm not looking to get most of my nutrients from bread, so.

Heathens versus Luddites on the bread machine--round two--ding!

10/18/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

And in Jackmormon's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
You can slice it with your steely knives,
But you'd best not kill the yeast


I hate that song.

Kneading dough is a pain -- bread machines are way easy. And watching the machine bop the bread-ball around is way cool. Not that I've made any bread in my machine lately, though I probably should, because there's no decent bread here. (The big hole in the bottom of the bread machine loaf is a problem, I admit.)

12/09/2006 12:28:00 PM  

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