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Monday, January 10, 2011

my first attempt at challah

Shortly after Christmas, I found myself craving challah. What's wrong with that statement? Absolutely nothing. Don't forget, we are the family who enjoys a post Christmas Dinner dinner at the local Jewish Deli every year.

I told my mother that I must have been Jewish in a former life due to my insane love for the Jewish culinary culture. She claims I got it from her genes since all of her friends growing up were Jewish and she enjoyed dinner at their homes quite often. There's nothing scientific to either argument, but we'll just roll with it.

First attempt at Challah

Back to challah. I love challah. So much, in fact, that when I was living in Dallas I would pick up a loaf at least once a week at Whole Foods. Had I known that it was so easy to make, I could have saved a good chunk of money by making it at home. Now I know, but now I have to be careful not to quadruple my carb intake because it is so easy to make at home. And delicious, ridiculously delicious.

First attempt at Challah
the distinctive crumb that separates challah from bread

A big thank you to the Baking Barrister for steering me in the direction of her favorite Challah recipe - it tasted exactly like my favorite style of challah from Whole Foods. Another thanks goes out to Tamar Ansh for this great tutorial on how to weave a round loaf. I have to admit that my first attempt at challah came out near perfect thanks to the input of these ladies!

recipe from Fine Cooking

2 tsp. instant yeast (Red Star Quick Rise, SAF Perfect Rise, Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise or Fleischmann’s Bread Machine Yeast)
16-3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (Hecker’s, Gold Medal, or Pillsbury); more as needed
1/4 cup warm water
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 tsp. table salt
For the glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the flour. Add the warm water, stir, and let this mixture, called a sponge, sit until it starts to puff up, 15-to 20-minutes. Add the eggs, oil, honey, and salt; stir until well combined. The sponge will remain lumpy—this is fine. Add the remaining flour and mix the dough in the bowl until all the ingredients are combined. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until fairly smooth, about 2 minutes. The dough should feel very firm and will be hard to knead. If it’s soft and sticky, add more flour until it’s very firm. Transfer the dough to a large, clean container and cover it well. Let it rise until doubled in bulk and very soft to the touch, about 2 hours, depending on the room temperature. Line an insulated baking sheet with parchment or oiled foil. If you don’t have an insulated sheet, stack two sheets together (this keeps the bottom of the bread from overbrowning during baking).
First attempt at Challah
To shape the dough:
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle a little more flour over it. Spread and flatten the dough a bit, but don’t worry about punching it down. Cut it into three to six equal pieces, depending on your desired braiding pattern. Set aside the dough pieces, cover them lightly with plastic, and brush all the flour off the work surface. Have a small bowl of water handy. Using no flour, roll a piece of dough with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick (don’t worry about making a rectangle; an amoeba-type shape is fine). The dough may stick to the work surface; this is all right—just nudge it gently with a dough scraper. Tightly roll up the sheet like a carpet to form a strand. Roll the strand back and forth between your hands until it’s thin, very even, and 12 to 15 inches long. Braid into desired loaf shape.
First attempt at Challah
I used the braiding tutorial found here at 
Transfer the braid to the lined baking sheet and cover it loosely but thoroughly with plastic wrap. Let proof until doubled in bulk and the loaf remains indented when lightly pressed, about 2 hours, depending on room temperature. (If in doubt, let the dough proof more rather than less.)

To bake:
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Just before baking, brush the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if using. With a thin wooden skewer, poke the bread deeply all over (the holes will prevent air pockets and help the bread keep its shape during baking). Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the challah 180 degrees and bake until the bread is a dark, burnished brown, about another 15 minutes. (If the challah is browning too rapidly cover it loosely with foil and let it finish baking. Don’t remove the loaf too soon, as you’ll risk underbaking.) Let cool thoroughly on a rack.
First attempt at Challah


Robyn said...

Hi Kimmie!

Mazel Tov! You did a great job. What a picture perfect Challah. This Jewish woman is shamed. This is the year I learn to bake.


Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

This is beautiful! I'm so excited that this turned out so well because hopefully it means a yeast novice like myself has a shot at making this one day :)

*kimmie* said...

Thanks, ladies! You two must try this - It was so incredibly easy, I promise success on your first try!

Jessie Bea said...

I definitely need to stop being a baby and make my own challah. I love it so much there is no good reason why I've never made it. Thanks for the encouragement! :)

Brooke said...

I want to put my face in that bread. Stat.

All That's Left Are The Crumbs said...

Your bread looks delicious. It renews my desire to learn how to make bread this year. Thanks for the photos showing the braiding steps.

sara @ CaffeIna said...

I say your first attempt at challah turned out pretty darn good! It looks perfect. I've never made challah so i need to make my wish to bake list longer now :)

Claudie said...

That is one amazingly good first attempt! I really love Challah (and such similar breads overall too), so you are really encouraging me to do this myself with this post! I love the detailed pics.

Sam said...

Challah = the bomb diggity! Yours looks awesome! Made to order? :p

smalltownoven said...

Your first attempt?! It looks so beautifully done like any bread I'd find at an artisan shop. Bravo!

Wilde in the Kitchen said...

Your challah looks beautiful, I love the look of your braided knot! Very nice first try!

briarrose said...

Lovely job. This looks just amazing.

Kori said...

Wow, what beautiful bread! It looks like a work of art :)

Pink Martini said...

This looks terrific. Want to know a secret? I am bread-making challenged!! Oh the shame! Really how do you do it?? And you take great pics too. :)

Anonymous said...

It was my first one too! thank you for the inspiration. My Jewish husband consumed half of it with a smile of delight and is now sound asleep on the sofa. He is overjoyed. Thank you so much. Also, your directions were excellent.

brenda said...

call me. I need one for one of my clients this Friday. Cannot locate a store/bakery near downtown dallas taht makes Challahs. 214-748-7482 Brenda