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My New Favorite Traditional Challah

When packing for a business trip I love to start a large bread for my husband to eat while I'm away. Challah is one of his favorites and since it's one of mine as well, I usually manage to eat a few slices myself before slicing, wrapping and freezing the rest.  This is the one I made before leaving for Barcelona in February. It's similar to the one in "The Bread Bible" with one wonderful difference: I've discovered that adding some old starter instead of the vinegar does wonders for elasticity making it much easier to braid. It also increases the moistness and shelf life and adds depth of flavor. And because it so exceptionally moist for a challah, the ends of the braids hold together well.

Oven Temperature: 325°F. (tent with foil after 30 minutes)
Baking Time: 35 to 40 minutes

Makes: A 16 inch by 6 inch by 4 inch high, 4 braid loaf
1 pound 14.4ounces / 861 grams

 

 INGREDIENTS

MEASUREMENTS

WEIGHT

 

volume

ounces

grams

water

1/2 liquid cup

 .

118 grams

old starter

 

 

75 to 85 grams

unbleached all purpose flour (use Harvest King)

3 cups

.

424 grams

instant yeast

2 1/2 teaspoons

.

8 grams

salt

1 1/2 – 1 3/4 teaspoons

.

10.7-11 grams

2  1/2 large eggs

used the remaining for glaze

4.2 ounces          120 grams
(weighed without shells)

honey

3 tablespoons (1-1/2 fluid ounces)

.

60 grams

corn oil or
Vermont butter

1/4 liquid cup if oil

.

54 grams
65 grams

Special Equipment: An insulated baking sheet or two baking sheets, one on-top of the other, lined with parchment. A baking stone or baking sheet

1) Mix the dough In the mixer bowl, place the water and tear in the starter. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast; then the salt.
Add the eggs and honey to the liquid in the mixer bowl and the corn oil or butter. Add the flour and with the dough hook, mix on low until moistened. On medium (#4 Kitchen Aid) beat for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and shiny. Add flour if necessary until it almost clears the bowl The dough should be just barely tacky. (The dough should weigh about 30.2 ounces / 856 grams.)  Form the dough into a ball.

2) Let the dough rise Place the dough into a 2 quart dough rising container or bowl, greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover the container with a lid, plastic wrap or a damp towel. With a piece of tape mark on the side of the container approximately where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75 to 80 °F., until it has doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to 2 quarts). Gently deflate the dough by pushing it down, give it 2 business letter turns and allow to rise a second time. (The second rising takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
Flatten the dough gently by pressing down on it, so as not to activate the gluten, making it stretchy. If desired, for best flavor development, the dough can be placed in a larger container or wrapped loosely with plastic wrap, placed in a 1 gallon plastic bag, and refrigerated overnight -- in which case give it a turn or two first. Allow it to sit a room temperature for 20 minutes after dividing in 4 pieces and preshaping into logs.
Glaze

 INGREDIENTS

MEASUREMENTS

WEIGHT

 

volume

ounces

grams

the remaining 1/2 of an egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 tablespoons

.

33 grams

water

3/4 teaspoon

.

.

Optional: poppy seeds

1 tablespoon

.

9 grams

3) Shape the dough, glaze it, and let it rise Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (214 to 217 grams each). Shape them into little logs, cover them with proofer or greased plastic wrap—no need to rest unless refrigerated overnight as they get more gluten development. Start by rolling one piece of dough on the counter into as long rope, 13 inches.  (Keep the rest covered while working with one-at-a-time.) Taper both ends of each dough rope to about 4 inches down so that they are narrower than the rest of the dough rope. (Allow the ropes to rest covered if stretchy.)
Starting from one tapered end, (middle, if doing a 3 strand braid) braid the strands. Pull the dough more as you come to the ends of the braid so that it comes to more of a point. Pinch the strands together at the end of the braid.
Don't allow too much bulge in the middle, i.e. braid tightly so that it doesn't spread when rising and baking. Push the ends together a little so that the loaf is about 14 inches long by 4 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches high. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with glaze and cover. Let rise to 15 x 5 x 3 1/4 inches high—about 1 hour.

5) Preheat the oven: 45 minutes before baking preheat the oven to 325°F. Have the oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.

6) Glaze and bake the challah.  Remove the plastic wrap and brush the challah all over with the egg glaze, going well into the crevices of the braid. Sprinkle the top with poppy seeds if desired, tilting the pan slightly to have access to the sides.
Quickly but gently set the bread onto the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn it around and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes (tent loosely with a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil after 30 minutes of baking time or if the top is getting too brown). Leave on parchment as very tender. The bread should be deep-golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 180°F.)

7) Cool the challah on a rack.

Comments

Dear Rose,

Thanks for posting this Challah. Over the years, I modified various recipes which MANY bakers love to do so they can call them their own, including this wonderful egg bread we love. I can't wait to try yours. It's one of the most beautiful of breads. I've been enjoying your PBS morning programs every Saturday.-Adele

Oh my that is a GORGEOUS loaf of bread!

Thank you! I've always thought most Challah recipes are a bit dry, so I'm eager to try it

Great reading, keep up the great posts.
Peace, JiggaDigga

excuse me for asking a silly question...how do you make the starter?

lu, this is not a silly question at all. though it's a very easy process, it takes many words to describe the steps. essentially what you're doing is cultivating the natural wild yeast and bacteria that are resident on the flour. you do this by starting with organic whole wheat flour and water and then give it a series of feedings simply of more flour and water. the yeast grows and multiplies until there is enough yeast to make the starter (mixture) rise.

you make a note to use harvest king flour, but i can't seem to find it anywhere. is it an obscure type? is it ok to use king arthur or gold medal unbleached all-purpose instead?

sorry! that note was for myself. harvest king is a fantastic flour that gold medal is launching this june and it will be available nationwide. for the time being king arthur all purpose unbleached would be closer in protein contnet though gold medal unbleached will also work. harvest king has the highest protein of the 3 flours so you will get the best definition in the braid. if using a softer flour, you may want to dust the strands of dough lightly with flour before braiding to help keep them well-defined.

Mrs. Beranbaum-

Firstly, I'd like to say how much I enjoy all your books! They are an EXTREMELY well used part of my collection! Now to my question! I've been trying to find a really good challah recipe - one that is heavy, dense, moist, and chewy - I don't know if you've ever had Pariser's Challah in Baltimore, but to myself - my family and probably most of the Baltimore Frum community, that is the best Challah around! However much I try, I can't seem to get that same consistency! I'm not sure if I should be underbaking the challah or perhaps not letting it rise as much...Basically I don't know! Do you have any ideas on how to get a really heavy thick - but soft chewy - Challah?

I'd appreciate any comments!

Thanks

Ruth Bloch

thanks ruth! no i've never had pariser's challah but listen--you've GOT to try the challah i posted. then if you want it to have a denser consistency all you have to do is add more flour and i think you'll arrive at just the consistency you're looking for. and the flavor is really superb! let me know!

Thanks so much - I will try it. The only thing is I'd like to make it for this Shabbos, and I'm assuming I can't make a starter by then. I usually get natural yeast from a bakery...can I use that instead of the starter and instant yeast?

Thanks

Ruth Bloch

Sorry, last question! I've also found a recipe for Amish Friendship Starter? Is that the same as this, is it appropriate for Challah? (i've just made one batch of your starter, and was thinking of making the other one as well just to try out both) I'll substitute the milk for Coffee Rich...Think it'll work?

Sorry to bother you so much! Please let me know if you're ever in London - I'd love to come to a class!

Ruth Bloch

maybe you could get king arthur to fed ex their starter. it's just not the same or as wonderfully stretchy without the starter. or maybe your bakery could give you some starter. if so, it will probably be a liquid one in which case you can convert it to a stiff starter by adding flour until it's a stiffer consistency like pie dough.

i've never made amish friendship bread and not sure if the acidity is high enough to create the relaxed effect in the dough but if you experiment do reprot back.
you will see with the starter that after mixing it is fairy stiff and not smooth and after a week in the frig. it softens, becomes very stretchy and silky. this is due primarily to the acidity produced. it's truely dramatic.
i have tasted friendship bread and it was very good--i seem to remember a bit sweet like a dessert bread.

I have loved and used The Cake Bible and imagine my delight to get the The Bread Bible. These days, my time is more limited for bread baking. Can I let the long rises, rise in the fridge? Because of lack of time, I have tried quick breads and they are wonderful. Thanks, Margarette

oh yes!!! in fact the flavor and texture really benefit from an overnight rise in the frig. be sure to cover the dough so it doesn't lose moisture. if it's in the pan you can slip the whole thing into a plastic bag.

Hi There

So I made a different challah recipe this week, as I couldn't get the starter right quickly enough - and couldn't find any in my local bakery! But I did incorporate some bits of your recipe, such as the honey and corn oil, and the challah came out absolutely fantastic- there wasn't a single piece left!
One other quick question - for items such as your peanut butter tart that incorporate cream cheese I believe - what can I substitute to make it pareve, but keep the same texture/taste? In general what type of substitutes can be used?

Thanks

Ruth Bloch

i don't believe in substitutions--i'd rather serve a dairy dinner and have the real thing. you'll need to get advice from someone who does pareve baking becaue i have no experience with it. so glad the challah worked well for you!

Hi
I want to bake your challah recipe--it sounds great. Is the "starter" the recipe in your book? Or is there an easier way to make a starter?

yes--it's the one in the book. really easier than it looks but easiest of all is to buy one from king arthur!

Dear Rose, I am making a cake and challah for a friend-of-a-friend's son's bar mitzvah this Saturday. The cake is all squared away calculation-wise, a 12x18 sheet straight from the Cake Bible. The challah is my question: How much challah to make for a party of 75? And also, I have a very healthy liquid starter (I like to keep it alive for when I teach bread classes, feeding once a week) that I would like to use for this; any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Hi there!

I've just found out that my husband is allergic to yeast!!! Do you have any recommendations on types of bread I can make for him, without the use of yeast?

Thanks

Ruth

ruth, there are several recipes in my bread bible that don't use yeast such as the wonderful indian bread paratha. also any quick bread will be fine as they use leavening such as baking powder and baking soda. and then of course there's the fabulous mediterranean matzoh!

reeni--i'm so sorry i haven't been able to keep up with g-mail this week and now it may be too late to answer your question--surely it is but i'll try anway: i'm pretty sure i gave the recipe for using old starter in the challah (do a search on the blog) as it gives wonderful extensibility and makes it easier to braid. i've never used 100% starter but i bet it would work. i would count of one of my size loaves which is about 14 inches long to feed 10 people generously so that would be 7 loaves (yikes). i've been spending the week in the hospital as my husband had hip replacement surgery so i'm off now.

Thank you so much Rose! Hope Elliott is recovering well. The cake is in the fridge, chilling after its crumb coat and the two double batches of challah dough that I made are rising now; I'll make another triple batch later when I have counter space!:D
I'm planning to do one large and showy three-strand braid (perhaps each strand weighing 450 g?) and the rest into more manageable 1-k loaves. Hope it all works out, I'll take a picture when everything is all done!
One note on my starter though: when I first made it about a month ago (in those dog days of early August), with organic rye and organic potato water, it was so healthy it busted out of the mason jar on its third day of life, doubling in less than 3 hours. Since then I have fed it, first three times, then once a week and kept it in the fridge. It seems to have weakened now (takes 4 or more hours to double) that the weather here is damp and colder, or is it because I'm now feeding it supermarket unbleached flour and tap water instead of organic flour and bottled water? Any thoughts?

you have to fortify it by feeding it more often (as per instructions in the book). it will get up to speed with regular flour.
elliott's going into rehab tomorrow and he made one request: challah!

Rose, I think you've got a winner here. I've been searching some time for a challah recipe with the right texture... I tried dozens of recipes from all over in vain. With your new recipe I finally reached exactly what I was looking for--it's the best challah I've ever had! The texture in the mouth says "more!"

I assume by "old starter" you mean unrefreshed liquid white starter. But by the way, the recipe adapts very well to a firm whole wheat starter. I bake weekly desem bread, so have a firm 100% whole wheat starter ready and waiting. I took off a 75g piece (golf ball size?) from the refreshed firm (50%) starter I use to bake my desem, and followed rest of recipe as directed. (OK, I admit I ran out of honey so substituted 1T sorghum.) It turned out great, with a slight rustic edge.

Rose,
I just splurged and bought myself the Kitchenaid professional mixer. Now I'm very excited and want to use it to make challah for Rosh Hoshanah dinner at friends' on Friday. Your recipe looks perfect --- but any suggestions on adding raisins?
Mary

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