Thursday, October 01, 2009

Challah

So here's my post about challah. Challah is a traditional Jewish egg bread that is served on Shabbat and most holidays. It tends to be lightly sweet with a fine crumb. I make it about twice a month. I'll make two challahs, use one for dinner one week and freeze the other for the next. I make a simple braid most of the time.

Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year. (Literally - the head of the year). This holiday calls for a round bread. We eat round challah bread to symbolize the circle of the life and the cycle of a new year. It's not hard to form, but it does take a little practice. And a good visual.

My favorite recipe is a pretty basic one. Make the dough, let it rise, form the braids, let it rise, bake. This year I tried something a little different. I made the dough one day, and then I let it rise in the fridge for about 18 hours. Then I formed it and followed the rest of the rising/baking steps. It was good! It was a little sweeter than usual. I think it's because the yeast and the honey in the recipe had plenty of time to interact. The second rise also took a bit longer. No big deal. The dough was amazingly easy to work with when it was cold. This may now be my go-to method.

Here are the two challahs that I made last weekend:

Traditional braid - top and side view.


Any hints as to what I can do about the un-egg glazed parts in the middle? I think it rises more after I've put it in the oven. Re-glaze after a few minutes?

Here's the round woven version:

Top view. Shiny!

Side-ish view. Shiny!

Here's the recipe if you'd like to try it yourself.

Challah

1 scant T or 1 envelope active dry yeast (I use instant yeast from KAF)
3/4 c. warm water (1/2 c. now, 1/4 later)
1/2 t. sugar
3 eggs
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 T. vanilla extract
3/4 t. salt
4-4 1/2 c. flour

Stir together the yeast, 1/2 c. water, and sugar. Proof for 10 minutes (if not using instant yeast-otherwise, just add ingredients) Beat the eggs with the honey. Add 1/4 c. warm water, oil, vanilla, and salt. Add the yeast mixture. Blend well. (I do this with a whisk in the bowl of my stand mixer) Add 4 cups of flour to the bowl. Using a dough hook, blend until all flour is absorbed. You want a slightly sticky dough. If it's too sticky, add the remaining flour until it is a desired consistency. Knead on medium speed for about 4 minutes. Alternately, you can do it by hand for about 10 minutes. Place in lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until double - about 1-2 hours. (This is the step that I did overnight. I covered it and left it in the fridge for about 18 hours. Worked great!) Gently deflate dough and divide into two portions. Divide first portion into three sections. Roll them out until they are about 1" thick. Squeeze the dough together at one end and braid as you would hair. Squeeze the dough together again at the other end. Place on Silpat or parchment lined sheet. Repeat with second half of dough. Cover and let rise again - about 1 hour. (If you've done the overnight rise, the dough may take a bit longer to warm up and rise) Preheat oven to 375. Just before baking, brush dough with a wash made of one beaten egg and 1 t. water. You can sprinkle it with poppy or sesame seeds if you wish. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

Did I mention that challah makes amazing bread pudding and French toast? I'm just saying...

7 comments:

Lainie said...

Yes, challah french toast totally rocks.

I've actually found that it works for me to go through 2 risings, then freeze the dough in loaf-sized portions. I thaw out the dough I'm going to use for the week so that by Friday afternoon, I can braid it and let it go through the last rising.

Makes me feel good to have a fresh challah on Shabbat, even when I don't have time to mess with it on Fridays.

Megan said...

Wow - that's a very impressive round braid. I don't think I've ever seen it like that before. I'm used to the traditional loaf!

The recipe looks simple enough - and if it freezes well, even better.

The holidays are coming and that would be perfect for a french toast casserole!

Cathy said...

Wow, your challah looks amazing! It will be the next one I try. I only made challah once-Peter Reinhart's, and it was very good. LOVED it as french toast (and croutons!) Seeing your pictures is making me crave it again!

AmyRuth said...

That is really so beautiful and I love the heritage associated with the making of Challah, plus its delicious.
AmyRuth

Kayte said...

Love it just the way you have it, it looks mysterious and exciting and so pretty! Very nice.

Cakelaw said...

These are gorgeous breads!! So golden and glossy.

SUGAR B said...

That is simply beautiful. Let's break some bread and eat it!