Friday, February 26, 2010
Ethnic Flavor: Adventures in Challah Baking
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved baking challah. My dad and I used to do it before Rosh Hashanah every year, each of us donning our aprons as we mixed, then kneaded, and then shaped the dough into round loaves.
As I've gotten older, my challah baking has become more frequent, and also less structured. I had trouble finding a recipe I liked, so I played around until I came up with my own. Even now, I often don't measure out my ingredients so carefully, instead preferring to dump things in the bowl and see what happens. (That recipe, or a version of it, will be posted at a later date-- keep reading!)
A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of teaching two of my dear friends, Jon and Gabe, how to bake challah. In addition to the fact that it is funny to watch boys try to braid things, Gabe convinced me to attempt my first foray into whole wheat challah. I admit that I was skeptical because things that are whole wheat often taste so... well... whole wheat-ish. However, he brought the flour, so I had no choice but to try it. And I have to say that with a half and half mixture of white and whole wheat flour, it was very successful, except that it did not rise quite as much as usual. So when I set out to make challah again a few weeks ago, I decided to try it again, this time with cinnamon sugar added as well. Also, as I was baking, I realized I was low on honey, so I added some brown sugar as well, just for fun. Overall, I was very pleased with the results-- a lesson to one and all that sometimes the best things happen when you don't follow the recipe.
Whole Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Challah:
2 packets yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
4-6 cups whole wheat flour
4-6 cups white flour
1 tsp water
Mix the yeast and the water and let them sit. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the oil, honey, sugar and salt and stir. Add the flour two cups at a time, alternating between whole wheat and white flour. Add the flour until the dough is elastic but not too sticky.
Set the dough aside and allow it to rise, covered with a towel, for at least 45 minutes. Punch the dough down and separate it into six sections. Divide each of the six sections into three or four even sized pieces. Roll each strip into a long thin snake and then roll it in cinnamon sugar. Braid the pieces together. Repeat until you have used all of the dough.
Allow the dough to rise again, for at least 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350.
When the challah is ready to go into the oven, pour cinnamon sugar on top of the loaves, and then paint the egg and water mixture on. Allow to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when you knock.