Stiff starter/moist challah
Posted: 28 December 2007 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello, I’ve been having issues with my challah - it always comes out dry (unless I make one that requires pumpkin or something like that).  What’s the secret to a moist challah?  Flour type? proofing? more water/less water?  Also, I’ve been reading about stiff starters.  Can someone please let me know what that is?  Thank you so much!!

Josh

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Posted: 28 December 2007 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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SIDECAR:
Good afternoon. Welcome to our culinary forum. I know you will enjoy being a member. It is much easier to help you (I know that we can) if you post the recipe & it’s directions. Your problem lies in hydration,ie, either water or egg problem cool hmm . Till then, enjoy the rest of the day my friend.

  ~FRESHKID.

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Posted: 28 December 2007 04:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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SIDECAR, I forgot to address the “STIFF STARTER” portion for you. There are 2 types of starters or sponges in yeasted lean bread baking. (1) POOLISH () BIGA.
  A poolish is a starter/sponge that only has the following ingredients flour, very small amount of yeast, & water… in weight the water must be the same weight as the flour.

  The biga varies ...the ratio of water to flour weight is less so the sponge is stiffer.  I do not see why a stiffer sponge is anymore efficient than a poolish. If you like you can post where & how you think it has an advantage over a poolish. We then can discuss it further.
Sidecar, being that even a stiff starter is better than not employing one at all I will explain to you how to make one…very simple. The ratio of water to flour,ie water less than 60% of the weight of the flour, ie 20,oz flour/approx 11, oz to 11 1/2, oz of water. This
will give you a stiff starter…good enough for BAGEL baking.
If we here at the forum can help you further post back.

  ~FRESHKID. cool hmm

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Posted: 29 December 2007 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hi Freshkid, thanks for the quick reply!

I got the recipe from “A Blessing of Bread” by Maggie Glezer.  It appears that the stiff starter may be what she refers to as a “yeast slurry”.

The recipe is as follows:
2tsp yeast
3.5 cups un-bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c warm water
3 large eggs (plus one for glazing)
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 c vege oil
1/4 c honey or 1/3 c sugar (I use honey)

Make a yeast slurry - whisk yeast, 1/4 c flour & 1/4 c warm water until smooth.  let stand for 10-20 minutes (I usually do 20 minutes allowing the slurry to really puff)

Then, whisk 3 eggs, salt, oil & honey into the slurry until the eggs & salt are well incorporated into the slurry.  Next, mix in the remaining flour until it’s a “shaggy ball” (mine never comes out being too shaggy) and knead it until it’s smooth for no more than 5 minutes.  She states that the dough should feel smooth and very firm but easy to knead. 

Next, place ball into a clean wooden bowl for proofing.  Let it double in bulk (can be 2-3 hours)

Shape the dough as you’d like. cover and let the bread prof until tripled in size.

Preheat oven to 325 (for 30 minutes - I don’t usually wait for the oven to be at 325 for 30 minutes, should I?  I do wait until it hits 325 though)

Brush loaf with egg for glazing and bake for 35-45 minutes (I’ve tried both 35 & 45 minutes and it comes out dry either way)

Should the loaf be on a certain shelf?  I have a propane oven (not sure if that matters) and I use a baking stone (and parchment paper).

Thanks in advance!!

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Posted: 29 December 2007 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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JOSH;
  Good afternoon. I studied the recipe for you. Truthfully Josh, I have never in my life seen a yeasted lean bread recipe of this sort.
I do not no what to make of it. To me this resembles a"NO KNEAD” bread recipe. My strong opinion is this recipe is somewhat out of balance. I will be very truthful with you I do not know why you bread is coming out dry because your hydration level is at 73.5%
when approx. 65 to 69% would be optimum in this type of bread. The only 2 items left that I would look at is this Tom. ( 1 ) Place a oven them. in the oven & make certain the oven temp. is accurate within reason. (2) You didn’t mention whether or not this concoction tripled in volume. Why is that in important????.... because your recipe has too too much dry yeast (I hope you are employing instant yeast) If the yeast is working properly it should proofed very very well, only to well with this amount. I might add Tom your recipe has too much oil
I believe it is in the area of 12% wheareas it should never be over 9 .875%. I use olive oil but I keep it down to about 3%. Also too much honey… I use honey instead of sugar…sugar is not a requirement but only a option. Honey is a much better choice.
  In any event Tom, I would suggest to you that use The Challah bread recipe in Miss Rose’s book the Bread Bible. If you do not have that edition perhaps someone who is a expert typist will post it for your benefit. Tom I cannot I can only type with 1 finger.It would take a full day to type.  If that doesn’t work out I will locate the one I use which is a prof recipe I got when I was in Culinary College as a pastry baking student.
  Goodluck Tom & enjoy the upcoming hloiday.

  ~FRESHKID.

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Posted: 30 December 2007 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Sidecar,

Maggie’s Challah recipe is a sound recipe. I have made it many times with no major problems. One thing to note: the hydration level of flour varies at different times of the year. It sounds like you may just have to add a bit more water than what the recipe calls for.
Always remember that flour and water amounts can never be set in stone for any bread recipe. I live a semi-arid desert like climate, and I ALWAYS have to add more water to my bread doughs, no matter what the recipe says, simply because my flour is drier here.

Also, If you have an older oven, make sure you always pre-heat it for at least a full 30 minutes before putting your bread in. Many older ovens do not pre-heat to a specified temperature, but rather for a certain amount of time. This is especially true for many propane ovens (this is why I prefer electric for ovens and keep the gas for the range top). It’s also a good idea to invest in a good oven thermometer, to make sure your oven is actually reaching the right temperature.

I hope this info helps!

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Posted: 30 December 2007 05:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Challah is by nature a drier bread because there is very little water content.  If you check the bread bible, the recipe is 39% hydration which is one of the lowest in the book.  By my calculations (see dough percentage below), this recipe is 36% hydration including the water in the eggs and honey, so even slightly lower (I calculated this with 3.5 cups dip and sweep, if you spoon your flour, the hydration would be a little higher).  You will also notice that the fat level is somewhat low (Rose’s is 12.1%).  Rose’s method of adding old stiff starter helps quite a bit—btw, the yeast slurry is not a stiff starter.  Old stiff-starter is leftover when you feed/refresh a stiff sourdough starter.

Dough Percentage
Flour:  100%
Water:  36.12%
Yeast:  1.16%
Salt:  1.64%
Fat:  2.88%

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