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Challah: Soft, Moist, and Flavorful with Step by Step Photos Part 1

Sep 6, 2014 | From the kitchen of Rose

Ankarsrum.jpg

When I was growing up, we had bakery bought challah every Friday night. I had one piece with honey and then waited til the following Friday night because the next day the challah became too dry for my taste. In recent years, I discovered that the addition of old sourdough starter or easy to make biga significantly extends the wonderful soft texture.

I recently did a side-by-side test of bread dough made with old sour dough starter versus biga and found that the breads made with added sourdough starter and biga were identical in flavor and texture providing the biga is mixed three days ahead of baking, so have incorporated this technique into many of my bread recipes.

Challah is traditionally made with oil so that it can accompaniment a meat meal, however, it also can be made with butter which is still more delicious.

The dough can be made a day ahead of baking but the best rise is when baked on the same day as mixed!

Cushionaire or two stacked pans are needed for this rich sweet dough to prevent overbrowning of the bottom.

Recipe Follows

Oven Temperature: 325°F/160°C, (tent after 25 to 30 minutes)
Baking Time: 35 to 45 minutes
Makes: A 16 inch by 6 inch by 3-3/4 inch high, 30 ounces/847 grams

1C.jpg

My Favorite Challah

Special Equipment: A Cushionaire or 2 large baking pans (stacked), top one lined with parchment; A baking stone or baking sheet

Note: A baking stone serves to maintain the oven temperature when the door is opened. If you don't have one, preheat the oven temperature to 350°F/175°C and lower it to 325°F/160°C after the first 5 minutes of baking.

Dough

INGREDIENTS

MEASURE

WEIGHT

volume

ounces

grams

water

1/2 cups (118 ml)

4.2 ounces

118 grams

firm old starter (or biga, see recipe below)

1/3 cup

2.7 ounces

78 grams

Gold Medal bread flour (other half other brand/half unbleached all-purpose flour

3-1/4 cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off)

15 ounces

424 grams

instant yeast

2-1/2 teaspoons

.

8 grams

fine sea salt

1-3/4 teaspoons

.

11 grams

2-1/2 large eggs, lightly beaten (reserve remaining 1/2 egg for the glaze)

1/2 cup (118 ml)

4.4 ounces

125 grams

honey (see Note below)

3 tablespoons

2.1 ounces

60 grams

corn oil (or unsalted butter, very soft)

1/4 cup (59 ml) (or 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons)

1.9 ounces (2.3 ounces)

54 grams (65 grams)


Mix the Dough Into the bowl of a stand mixer bowl, fitted with the roller attachment for an Ankarsrum, or dough hook for other stand mixers, pour the water. Use sharp scissors, dipped in water if it is sticky, to cut the starter into many small pieces, letting them drop into the water. Allow it to sit, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast; then the salt.

Add the eggs, honey, and corn oil or butter to the mixer bowl. Add the flour and mix on low speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened. Raise the speed to medium-low and knead for 7 minutes. The dough should be just barely tacky.

Let the Dough Rise Scrape the dough into a 2 quart/2 liter dough rising container or bowl that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Push down the dough and lightly coat the surface with nonstick cooking spray. (The dough should weigh about 30.3 ounces/860 grams.) Unless putting it in an enclosed area with hot water, cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. It will be just under 1 quart. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75° to 80°F/24° to 27°C, until it has doubled, 1-1/4 to 2 hours to just under 2 quarts. Gently deflate the dough by pushing it down, give it 2 business letter turns and allow it to rise a second time--to 2 quarts/2 liters. (The second rising takes about 35 minutes to 1 hour.)

Glaze

INGREDIENTS

MEASURE

WEIGHT

volume

ounces

grams

the remaining 1/2 egg, lightly beaten and strained

1-1/2 tablespoons (22 ml)

0.9 ounce

25 grams

water

3/4 teaspoon (3.7 ml)

.

.

Optional: poppy seeds

1 tablespoon

.

9 grams

Shape the Dough, Glaze It, and Let It Rise Dust the counter top with flour and divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (212 to 217 grams/7.5 to 7.6 ounces each). Shape each piece of dough into a small logs. Cover the dough logs with a large plastic box or plastic wrap that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.

Start by rolling one piece of dough on the counter into a 13 inch long rope. (Keep the rest covered while working with one at a time.) Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Starting at the middle, lengthen the dough rop to about 19 inches. Apply more pressure toward the last 4 inches of each end so that they are tapered.

A four braid challah is the most attractive but a three braid is also beautiful. Start from one tapered end by pressing the ends of the dough together. As you come to the other end of the braid, pull the dough more so that it comes to more of a point. Pinch the strands together at each end of the braid and tuck them under to make sure they don't come apart during rising and baking.

Braid tightly, especially in the middle, so that the dough doesn't spread too much when rising and baking. Push the ends together a little so that the loaf is about 12 inches long by 4 inches wide by 2-1/4 inches high. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with the glaze and cover with a large plastic box of plastic wrap that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Let the loaf rise to 13 by 5 by 3 inches high.

Preheat the Oven: Forty-five minutes or longer before baking, set the oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.

Glaze the Challah Brush the challah all over with the remaining egg glaze, going well into the crevices of the braid. Puncture any air bubbles. If desired, sprinkle with poppy seeds, lifting the parchment slightly to have access to the sides.

Bake the Challah Quickly but gently set the pan onto the hot stone or baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pan half way around.

Continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes (tent loosely with a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil after 25 to 30 minutes of baking time to keep the top crust from getting too brown). 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 should read 200°F/93°C--less and it will be a little pasty.)

Cool the Challah Remove the bread from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack. Leave the bread on the parchment as it is very tender. When the challah is no longer hot or completely cool (so that it is firm enough to transfer), slip it off the parchment.

Store Room temperature, 2 days; airtight: frozen, 3 months

Biga
Makes: Almost 1/3 cup/2.7 ounces/78 grams

INGREDIENTS

MEASURE

WEIGHT

volume

ounces

grams

Gold Medal Better for Bread flour (or half bread flour, half half unbleached all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off)

1.7 ounces

49 grams

instant yeast

1/16 teaspoon

.

0.2 gram

water, at room temperature (70° to 80°F/21° to 27°

2 tablespoons (30 ml)

1 ounce

30 grams


Make the Biga In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast. With a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the water. Continue stirring for 3 to 5 minutes, or until very smooth. The biga should be tacky enough to cling slightly to your fingers.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray (or place it in a 1 cup food storage container that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray and cover it with a lid). Set it aside until almost doubled in volume (to 3/4 cup) and filled with bubbles. At warm room temperature or in the proofer (80°F/27°C), this will take about 4 to 6 hours. Stir it down. Refrigerate it for 3 days before making the dough.

Note: Use standard supermarket clover honey such as Gold Blossom or Sue Bee, as they are pasteurized so the enzymes will not kill the yeast.


2C.jpg

EGGS, HONEY, AND OIL

3C.jpg

THE LIQUID AND DRY INGREDIENTS READY TO COMBINE

4C.jpg

MIXING THE DOUGH

5C.jpg

KNEADING THE DOUGH

6C.jpg

THE FULLY KNEADED DOUGH

7C.jpg

THE STRETCHY CONSISTENCY OF THE DOUGH

8C.jpg

THE DOUGH BEFORE RISING

9C.jpg

THE DOUGH RISEN TO DOUBLE

10C.jpg

STRETCHING AND FOLDING THE DOUGH

11C.jpg

THE SECOND RISE

The Ankarsrum Original is available on this link:
Ankarsrum Original AKM 6220 Red Stand Mixer

Comments

I find refrigerating the dough until firm makes the challa more workable for braiding. Due the higher fat content in challa it gets soft when out too long I think. I agree bread making is a wonerrful art.

For years I stYed away from yeast bread making because of of all the steps involved snd because its not full proof like mist quick bresds, plus I could get decent breads from most bakeries not too dar from home and I also loce the whole goods breads even though they are not mixed in the store. However, tgeres something special about making yourvown bread and its s nice thing to do on a snowy day. Rose Berenbaumbmention the book wasnt going to gave baguette because understandably she never made it because she has places bear her to buy good baguette, I agree. I also gavevbakeries near me that make decent baguett and a whole foods market and fairway that has good baguette I think from local bakeries (provably in feance at least in urbanbareas they buy there baguette) but theres something impressive about making yoyr own baguette, itvsoubds really dancy to say you made your own baguette if you bring it to someobes house for dinner or have soneone over. So Ibdecided to try it and it came out great. Same with bagels. I have like five bagel stores near me but it was fun making my own.

REPLY

I made a happy accident making your dairy challs. I braided a perfect loaf and went to move it which I kniw I shouldnt do. But I broke off a piece and decided tonleave tge losf as us since it was still oerfectly braided. With the piece of dough I had left I rolled it added meltrd butter and cinnomon sugar and rolled it into a cinnomon roll for breakfsst. It came out nuce, a huge ro too.

REPLY

Hi everybody. I have been making the dairy dinner variation of the challa (butter challa) and it is not like any other. This version looks good too. I dont keep kosher but I guess the traditional vhalla might be preferable with a very rich meal.
Im wondering if dairy dinner challa is traditional in countries where fish is the traditional shabbot di
dinner perhaps in countries lkke Denmark or Sweeden.

Anyway, I have been making the challa every Fridsy night and my husnand eats a big piece of it before dinner, its so good. Challa could be a very delicous bread when done right. I love the challa in the bakery I gonto but this is even better.

REPLY

Thank you so much for your detailed response! We really enjoyed baking together and liked both the flavor and texture of the challah, we will definitely be trying it again. We have lots to learn, so your guidance is definitely appreciated!

REPLY

Thank you so much for your quick response! The challah had amazing flavor and texture; we will definitely be making it again and will try your suggestion. I so appreciate your help!

REPLY

Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Allen Cohn
01/ 3/2016 11:25 PM

Thank you Allen for the excellent response. I just want to add that it helps definition to roll each strand in flour to coat it lightly before braiding.

REPLY

Allen Cohn
Allen Cohn in reply to comment from Emily
01/ 3/2016 11:12 PM

Hi, Emily!

Yay for you and your daughter for embarking on the wonderful world of bread making. I find it a delightful pastime and I hope it becomes one for you.

Some things that I have found to help maintain the definition of the braids:

* the dough should be fairly stiff, i.e., not too much liquid. Note how Rose wrote "The dough should be just barely tacky." It will certainly help to measure your ingredients by weight, not volume. (A good digital scale is only about $40 online.) To be honest, the dough in the pictures above looked a bit loose to me. After you've switched to measuring by weight...if the dough still is loose you might consider reducing the amount of water a bit.

* Challah dough should be kneaded fairly intensively...perhaps 8-12 minutes in a Kitchenaid.

* When you form the logs (just before you roll them into 13-inch ropes) make sure the logs have a lot of surface tension. Look for some shaping videos online to see the various techniques one can use to tighten up the outer surface of a log.

* When you braid the ropes, make the braids somewhat tight.

I hope some of these techniques work for you!

And remember...even the mistakes taste delicious!

Allen

REPLY

I am a new bread baker and when my daughter and I made this challah recipe the braid did not stand out in individual sections. It almost looks in places as though it wasn't braided at all. Any suggestions on what might have went wrong and how to improve next time? Thanks!

REPLY

Thank you for your reply! I will definitely look at the sweet potato loaf as you suggested.

REPLY

Woody Wolston
Woody Wolston in reply to comment from Cait
02/26/2015 12:36 PM

Hi Cait,
We have not tried adding pumpkin to the challah. You may want to look at "The Bread Bible's" Sweet Potato Loaf recipe on page 276. The proportions of sweet potato to flour may give you another perspective to the recipes that you have already seen.
Rose & Woody

REPLY

Hello! I loved this challah recipe and so did my entire family. The bread was quickly devoured. However, I was looking at different challah recipes and came across pumpkin challah. I was wondering if you could add pumpkin to this and how to adjust the other ingredients accordingly. Thank you!

REPLY

Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Allen Cohn
10/ 1/2014 04:26 PM

Allen, you're absolutely right and definitely worthy of further investigation. the advantage is that one doesn't have to wait for 3 days the way it's best to do with a biga, but the advantage of the biga is the extra flavor!

REPLY

Thank you for trying this. I don't think it's vital to the tangzhong method that the flour/liquid slurry be made with milk. I made mine with water.

I only asked because a baker I communicated with at King Arthur tried a side-by-side comparison of the same sandwich bread made with/without making and cooking a slurry out of some of the flour and liquid. They said that the results were very similar the day-of baking...but days later the loaf made with the cooked slurry retained a much softer, moister texture. That sounded similar to me to the goal of your article above.

Happy baking,
Allen

REPLY

Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Allen Cohn
10/ 1/2014 11:01 AM

hi Allen!

i have to confess that i tried the japanese bread with the tangzhong method and much preferred my recipe for soft white bread. it's a very interesting method though but challah is usually parave which means no dairy is used and with the old starter or biga and oil it really is soft with an adequate shelf-life.

REPLY

If you're trying to extend the soft texture, perhaps the tangzhong method would be useful instead of or in addition to the sourdough/biga.

REPLY

Hi Rose!! sorry to bother you again. Do you use the same method of baking with your round challot?? I did everything you recommend braid them round with 4 logs like the tic tac toe method and its raw in the center?? I don't know what else to do:(

REPLY

Thank You Woody😉

REPLY

Woody Wolston
Woody Wolston in reply to comment from zlota
09/11/2014 12:44 AM

Hi Zlota,
All of our recipes are stated for standard heating ovens. The above recipe was made in a Wolf standard gas oven. You can use convection ovens to preheating the oven faster, but then turn it off during baking so you do not blow out the moisture in the oven. It can be turned on after the bread is baked to clear out moisture.
We suggest that you look at the equipment section in "The Bread Bible" for other recommendations.
Rose & Woody

REPLY

Thank u Rose!! I will try your suggestions and let you know soon:) I will try to buy a new thermometer and the pan. I forgot to ask you do you use a regular oven or the convection one?
Thank you once again:)

REPLY

zlotta, re the cushionare, i'm sure you'll find it on google. the best thermometer is the thermapen. you can find a link to it on the left side of this home page under rose's family of bakeware products. as for raising the oven temperature, it could be that your oven is running low. as long as you protect the bottom and tent the top you can try a slightly higher temperature. also if the bottom is browning too fast even with a double pan try a higher rack.

REPLY

Thank you Rose!! I do use a double pan. I never heard about the cushionaire sheet pan before! Where I can find one??
So you do not recommend to rise the temp?
Which is the thermometer you have?? I'm I need to buy a new one for sure so I want a good one!!
Thank you for responding so fast!!:)

REPLY

zlota, i recommend using a double pan as the honey causes the bread to brown faster and this will protect the bottom. if the bread is still uncooked at 200 chances are your thermometer is off. just bake longer, tented and double up the pans or use a cushionaire sheet pan. that should do the trick.

REPLY

Hi Rose!!Im having a problem with my challah bread!
I don't use the starter its difficult for me, I use the vinegar and it works good! I use the Gold Medal Bread flour because me and my family we like the dense texture better, the problem I've been having is that after baking the challas I make 2 each time, pre heat the oven at 325 degrees, and use 2 baking sheets, but even though the temp is 200 when I cut them they r raw in the center, the rest its perfect and delicious. Today I preheat the oven on 350 baked for 20 minutes and then decrease the temp to 325 to finish the baking, as the challas weren't done I covered them with foil but the bottom was a little darker than I like and still when I insert the thermometer it was not clean!!
Please any advise that you think can work I will really appreciate it! Thank you very much:)

REPLY

Beth Glixon
Beth Glixon
09/ 6/2014 02:40 PM

Thanks for this, Rose. I've been adding "old" starter since I started making your breads, and also add it to my challah, but hadn't been adding this much. I will now increase the amount I have been adding.

REPLY

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