Sunday, June 21, 2009
Ethnic Flavor: Challah Three Ways
Challah is a great food. You eat it on Shabbat, on holidays and it makes killer french toast. One might ask why you would bake your own challah when there are a large variety of packaged challahs available that taste really good. While it is true that challah can take a while to make (with all the rising and waiting and braiding), it is totally worth it. It is delicious and with this recipe, there is only one rising which is great and you can customize to make any flavor you want. In addition, if you want to make a whole batch of dough, you can braid it and then freeze it. When the mood strikes for fresh challah, you defrost you dough, let it rise a bit and then pop it in the oven. Fresh challah for Shabbat...yummy.
This recipe comes from my friend Shoshanah, who is an amazing cook and baker and has a great blog called Couldn't Be Parve where she explores all matters of parve baking. You should check it out!
The baking sisters made six small challahs -- two plain, to chocolate chip (we accidentally used diary chips, so we had to serve it at a diary meal) and two cinnamon sugar. For the chocolate chips, we just added in what looked like the right amount (no measuring) during the pre-braiding kneading stage. For the cinnamon sugar, we rolled each piece of the braid into cinnamon sugar before braiding.
A note on braiding. We made three and four strand braids, but you could do more. All you have to do is google braid challah and lots of information will come up.
Yields 2 medium loaves and 2 small loaves (or six small loaves)
3 packages dry yeast (about 2 tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
¾ warm water
6 cups unbleached white flour (more, if necessary) -- note that you don't have to take challlah from this recipe, since the amount of flour is less than the required amount.
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup water
½ cup honey
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips (optional)
1 egg beaten with 1-2 tsp water
sesame seeds, poppy seeds (optional)
Mix yeast and brown sugar with warm water in a bowl. Let stand for about 5 minutes until mixture starts to bubble a bit. If it doesn’t bubble, it’s not working: try again.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, mix eggs, oil, water and honey. Set aside.
When yeast has proofed (bubbled), add the yeast mixture to flour and salt mixture and mix well. Add egg mixture and continue mixing until the dough has come together. If necessary, add unbleached white flour as you’re mixing. The dough will remain fairly soft, but it shouldn’t be sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a counter or a board, and knead it a few times just to smooth it out. Form it into a ball. This “kneading” should not take more than one minute. Place the ball of dough in a large, well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to oil all the surfaces. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, non-drafty place for about two hours, or until doubled in size
Preheat oven to 325
Punch down the dough. If raisins or chocolate chips are desired, add them at this point, working them into the dough. To make two medium and two small challah divide the dough into three pieces. Use one piece to make each medium challah and divide the third piece in half to make the two small challot.
Divide each piece of dough into three, roll out into long ropes and braid them together.
Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg and water glaze, then sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Challah is done when both top and bottom are browned and it makes a hollow sound when tapped.