My first request! – Challah

I may have mentioned I made a round challah for the last Feastly – took pictures and everything too. 🙂 Which lead to a discussion on Sunday about learning to make (standard) challah, my offering a copy of the recipe to my guest, and his statement ‘why not post it on the blog?’. Easiest method of transmission. BRILLIANT!

A bit of history: For a while, I was making this challah every weekend. And by ‘a while’, I mean about 5-6 months. And then got bored and tried something new. So weird like that – doesn’t mean I stopped liking this particular challah recipe (it’s not like I wandered off to try new challah recipes), I’d just gotten acclimated to the taste (so it wasn’t as ‘wow, that’s so good) and not the work. This one doesn’t require that much work – if you’re used to making bread. And challah was one of the first breads I learned to make. Which is like deciding to learn how to ski by going down the intermediate trail the first time you strap on skis – not really a huge risk of death, destruction, injury, and/or mortifying embarrassment, but probably not the best idea for two reasons:

An overnight rise

Braiding

Most breads have a rise time, which makes baking bread have a different rhythm than baking other tasty things. This challah involves refrigeration for 4-12 hours, which is a whole different rhythm than other breads – easiest way is to shove the bowl in the refrigerator at night and come back in the morning, which spaces baking out to two different days. I may have mentioned that I learned stir-fry first so I wouldn’t be able to walk away from what I was doing? Yeah….

Traditional challahs have a 4 strand braid, and being the stubborn ‘purist’ I can be, that’s the one I started with while learning this recipe. Whee. Speaking of tradition, challahs are usually served as part of Shabbas – Friday nights at sundown, the demarcator as to when observant Jews start performing no work, because Saturday is the day of rest. Which meant I was being a very bad Jew by starting my challah on Friday nights after work and finishing up on Saturday. Good thing I’m not very observant.

Just go with a 3 braid (done like you’d braid hair). Unless you’re bringing this to an observant family’s Shabbas dinner. Or trying to impress someone. Orrrrr just looking for a challenge. Look, what I’m saying is that the number of strands to your braid don’t affect taste, just looks and you should have fun with it. If you want to learn a 4 strand braid, check out these youtube videos: 1 from NYBakers and 1 from CookingOutsidetheBox. I’ll be trying the second one next time I make a challah.

Challah

make 1 loaf
Original from the Joy of Cooking

Used pre-long-rise

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup water – warm (105°F – 115°F)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour

Use post-long-rise

  • rye flour, optional
  • 1 egg whisked with a pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp poppy or sesame seeds, optional
  1. Combine the yeast and water; allow to stand until yeast is dissolved – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the all-purpose flour, eggs, egg yolks, oil, honey, and salt. Mix until thoroughly blended, then gradually stir in the bread flour.
  3. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. It should no longer stick to your hands or the bowl. Transfer to a boil and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise, preferably in a warm  (75°F-80°F) place, until doubled in volume, 1-1.5 hours.
  4. Transfer dough to a clean work surface, punch it down, and knead briefly. Transfer back to the bowl and cover; refrigerate covered until nearly doubled again in volume, 4-12 hours (really, just stick it in the fridge overnight).
  5. Divide the dough equally into the number of strands you’re using. Roll on an unfloured work surface into balls then allow to rest, loosely covered, for 10 minutes. Roll each ball into a rope – if using 3 balls, you want the ropes about 13-14 inches long and 1.5 inches thick; if using 4 balls, 10 inches long and 1 inch thick. Dust with rye flour, if using (keeps strands more distinct after baking). Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal (makes the loaf easier to remove post baking; also taste). Braid the ropes together.
  6. Set loaf on the baking sheet and brush the egg-salt wash over the top of the loaf. Loosely cover loaf with a lightly oiled sheet of plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until not quite doubled, about 45 minutes.
  7. Heat the oven to 375°F. Brush loaf again with egg-salt wash then sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if using. Bake until crust is gold brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped – 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack before serving.

Feastly ChallahP.S. SIX strands!

Next, Tuesday? The Apple-Honey Challah I made for the last Feastly

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