“A Loaf of Bread” to Fall in Love With – Challah

Challah Bread
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Here  is a  3 strand  Challah   studded with poppy seeds.   This is   the all time  favorite  bread  for  us  and   made  quite often at  home. Why do we  love  it  so much ? It is  soft  with a  very fine   crumb, a  bit  sweet,   rich and  absolutely delicious.   It is  a celebration  bread – a bit  of  indulgence  to celebrate  the  little  things  in life. To me this  rich  bread in all its  different  forms taste  simply divine.

Challah Bread

Challah is  not  just  any bread,  but  the  bread   that has an important place  in  Jewish celebrations.  Religions  with  histories that  span  centuries  and  even millennia  are  awash with symbolism.  Even the  everyday acts of  cooking,  eating ,  cleaning   etc.  take  extraordinary meanings that  leave  the  uninitiated baffled.  Challah falls into this deeply symbolic  category.  How to prepare the  dough,  how  to shape the loaf and  how to serve  it  and  even how to eat  it, there is  symbolism  in all the these.  I do not  pretend  to understand  it, but  it is  indeed fascinating.

Today I am talking about the most traditional Challah with a soft  crumb  that almost feels  like a cake.    Incidentally  Challah is  made parve  which means that  it  contains  no  meat  or  diary.   There is a  vegan  version or  water  Challah containing no eggs,  more  on that  another  time.   This  wonderful  loaf  uses  absolutely no diary  products  and  gets  its  moist  cake like  texture  from eggs  and oil.

Over  time I have  learnt  that  the   way to improve the  flavor  and  texture  is in the slow or  cold  rise of  the  dough  It  takes  time, but the   results in an incredible  loaf.  The Challah  made just like a standard  loaf of bread  (2 rises of   he   dough) will still  be a  delicious.

This  bread  recipe  used  active  dry yeast , and  starts in the  usual way, by activating  yeast  in  water.  Warm 1/4 C water to 110°F or just warm to touch . Dissolve 1 Tbsp Sugar in the water and sprinkle the yeast on top . Set aside to bloom.

This  dough can be  made  in  the  stand mixer  or  by hand.  Since  it  tends  to get a  little  sticky, I prefer  to  do  most  of  the  mixing  in the machine  so I can  multi task.  Either way  here are a  few  points  to  keep in mind

  • Once  the   all flour is  mixed in cover  the  mix  and  let  it  rest  for  20 minutes  or  so  before  proceeding further.
  • If  planning  to  have  the  dough  rise in the fridge  you can  stop  kneading as  soon as  the  dough  feels  soft.
  • If kneading  by hand  about 10 minutes should  be  good  enough. In the  stand  mixer, it takes   about 3  to 4  minutes  .
  • Always go by the  feel of  the   dough rather than   time.
  • Whether   following  slow  rising  or  not, keep in mind  that  each  successive  doubling  of  the  dough  will take  less  time  than  the previous one , using  the   same  method.
  • A  braided loaf on the  sheet pan  has  more  space  to  expand  than a  loaf pan.  And   this  bread  usually  has a  good oven  spring. Space  the  loaves  a  little  farther   apart  then  you would  normally do.
  • Apply the  eggwash twice (explained below).

Challah Bread

 

There  are  many ways  to shape  Challah .  In the pictures  here  I have  made one  of  the  simplest  – the  three  stand  braid .  Punch down and divide the  dough  into 2 equal halves . Take one half and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion onto about 12 to 14 inch long rope. Place 3 of the  ropes on the  baking  sheet  side by side .  Follow the   directions  above  and  braid by starting  at  the   center of  the  ropes  instead  of  the  ends .  Taper  the  ends  of  the   ropes a  bit   and  pinch  the ends  together  and  fold  under if  needed.  Cover and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes until almost doubled .

While  the  braids  are   rising , preheat the oven to 350°F. Break the egg for the egg wash and beat well with 1 tsp water.  When  ready to bake, brush the top of the braids  liberally with egg wash. If  topping  with seeds,sprinkle   seeds on top. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.  By this  time  the  bread  has  had  a  good  oven  spring  and  you can  see  light  browning  on the  egg washed  portion  and  light  expanded  portions. Brush the  remaining  egg-wash  over  the  bread  taking  care  to cover  all the  newly  exposed  areas.  You can  add  more  seeds on top at  this  time as well.  Return the loaf to the oven and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes till done .

That was  the  two step  egg  wash, it creates an  even  (well almost) browning  of  the braids.  This  is  not a  mandatory step, you could  leave  the loaves  undisturbed  in the  oven to  finish  baking.

Simple Challah
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
4 hrs
 

Challah is a  traditional Jewish celebration bread.  This  is  an eggy bread  mad e without  the   use  of  any diary products.   It  s  still very tender   and  soft  and   stays  fresh  for   2  to 3  days.   This is one of  those  breads  that  have  beautiful   oven  spring   making  it  very soft  on the  inside. 

Course: Brunch
Servings: 2 loaves
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 500 g All Purpose or Bread Flour (4 to 4 1/2 C)
  • 160 g Water ( 3/4C )
  • 2 Eggs Large
  • 1/4 C Vegetable Oil
  • 50 g Sugar ( 1/4 C )
  • 10 g Fine Sea Salt (1 1/4Tsp)
  • 7 g Active Dry Yeast (1 pkt or about 2 tsp)
Eggwash
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tsp Water
  • Poppy Seed / Sesame Seed Optional
Instructions
Activate Yeast
  1. Warm 1/4 C water to 110°F or just warm to touch . Dissolve 1 Tbsp Sugar in the water and sprinkle the yeast on top . Set aside to bloom.
Mix The dough
  1. Place the flour, remaining sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the mix, add the eggs to it. Add the activated yeast, oil and half the remaining water to it as well. Gently mix until all the flour is moistened, adding enough of the remaining water to bring the dough together. Cover and set aside for 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Uncover and knead gently for 10 minutes until a soft and pliable dough is formed. This dough should be a little wet than normal.
1st Rise
  1. Form the dough into a ball. Grease a bowl large enough to hold the risen dough ( about 3 times in volume) and place the dough ball in it . Turn to coat all sides of the dough with oil evenly. Cover and place in the fridge for an overnight rise (preferable) or set aside in a warm place to double in volume (about 1 1/2 hours).
2nd Rise
  1. Uncover and punch down the dough . Knead a few times in the bowl, form into a ball and let rise again till almost doubled - 30 mins to 1 hr at room temperature or few hours in the fridge.
Shape and Final Rise
  1. Punch down and divide the dough into 2 equal halves. Take one half and divide into 3 equal portions.
  2. Roll each portion into ropes of about 12 to 14 inches in length. Braid the ropes together . Transfer to a baking sheet . Repeat with the other half.
  3. Cover and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes until almost doubled .
Bake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (170°C).
  2. Break the egg for the egg wash and beat well with 1 tsp water. Brush the top of the braids with egg wash. Sprinkle the seeds on top, if using. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the tops with the remaining egg wash again. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes till done. At any time if the tops of the loaves start to brown too much cover with aluminium foil.
  3. When cooked through the bottom of the loaves should sound hollow when patted.
  4. The bread is done when the internal temperature reaches 190°F.
  5. Cool before slicing.
Recipe Notes
  • US cup measurements used : 1C = 240 ml.
  • Use unbleached unbromated flour.

It is a  very versatile bread.  Lovely as a  plain toast ,  goes  great with  savory dips and makes beautiful sandwiches. The  leftovers can be  made into French Toast  or  Bread  Pudding  the  next  day.

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How To Make Challah


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    4 thoughts on ““A Loaf of Bread” to Fall in Love With – Challah

      1. In standard oven not convection (fan). In fact it should be corrected to 175 C at standard oven. If you are using convection oven it should be closer to 160C (Gas Mark 4 or Moderate ). Having said that in most situations it will not make much of a difference, other than slight changes in final cook time.

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