It’s that time of year. What time you might ask? Time to start baking.. Like we really need an excuse to bake! It’s an ongoing happening.
This year I am starting out by baking one of my FAVOURITE breads. Challah.
Challah is a loaf of yeast-risen egg bread that is traditionally eaten by Jews on Shabbat, on ceremonial occasions and during festival holidays.
My Mom would buy it on the weekend after her work. It was the BEST bread I ever ate. The shiny texture and pull-like form made it a sure win.
I never made the bread until I got here to Stockholm. The hunt was on to find a recipe and then refine and perfect it until I was tasting New York Challah bread! You know, ’cause I’m in SWEDEN….not Switzerland 🙂
What a challenge this turned out to be but with persistence, I finally was able to create my on Challah. Please don’t get Challah confused with Brioche, its’ French counterpart.
They both have a similar look but Brioche contains milk and butter as ingredients. Challah does not, but it does need time and patience.
I started out with preparing all the ingredients in advance. Sifting the flour is a usual thing for me. Most flours can become clumpy. Sifting the flour destroys clumps and helps for better mixing. I allow the yeast to dissolve and puff up in tepid water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Takes about 10-15 minutes. If you want it to happen quicker, you can submerge your bowl into a waterbath with hot water. Once the yeast is ready, add the rest of the sugar, salt and ½ the flour to the bowl. Mix together with dough hook. Add the eggs and oil and blend them in well.
Mix in the remaining flour until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl. This where the fun begins!
Pull the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and begin Kneading. This may take about 5-8 minutes. One commonly used technique is to push the dough out in one direction with the heel of your hand, and fold it back on itself. Turn the dough by 90 degrees and repeat. Kneading in this way stretches the gluten and makes the dough elastic until it acquires a “life of it’s own”. It should be smooth and elastic, springing back when pressed lightly with your finger.
Now, oil a clean bowl and place the dough into it ,turning the dough once so that its oiled on all sides. Cover it with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for… are you ready.. 2 HOURS!!! That’s right! Well, you’re not totally inactive at this stage. you need to punch down the rising dough every ½ hour! Now, if you miss one or two, ½ hour intervals, don’t fret but it’s best to have a timer set so you can get it done!
After the 2 hours, turn your dough out onto your lightly floured work surface. Get your pan and line it with baking paper. Set your oven to 175c degrees. 375 F degrees in the U.S.
Cut the dough in half with a large knife or a dough cutter. Take one half and divide it into thirds.
Now the fun begins. Roll each third out to about a foot long…from your pinky finger to your elbow That might be a bit longer than 12 inches but there is enough dough.. Place each one on the bakingpaper sheet . I think it is easier to braid them on the sheet than attempting to transfer them from workboard to baking pan but if you have mad skills, go for it! Pinch the top ends together and begin to carefully braid the bread. Be sure there is enough space in between each length. Work slowly. When you get to the end, pinch it together and tuck it under. Now, do the same thing with the other third OR you can make rolls as I did.
Now allow the Challah to rest for 30 minutes.
Take a beaten egg and brush the Challah all over. At this point you can sprinkle, pumpkin seeds or poppy seeds on top if you like. Then into the oven for 25 minutes.
DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN! Now depending on your oven.. that 25 minutes could be 35 minutes or 20 minutes. Keep a close watch on it. I usually put my timer on for 25 minutes, then check it for browness after an extra 10 minutes.
After the time has passed, turn off the oven and let the bread sit in there for another 10 minutes.
NOW, take the bread out of the oven…..
Aren’t they just the prettiest things you ever saw. This bread can also be made in a loaf pan. I made hamburger buns with them a while back. They were excellent! It’s great for breakfast with butter and jam or just plain with a nice cup of tea like my Mum use to have it. Either way, it is quite a yummy bread. Just try your hand at it. You will be surprised how satisfied you will feel afterwards!
Challah Bread Yield: 2 Challahs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups warm water (80 -90)
1 egg, beaten