Sunday, May 27, 2012

May Daring Bakers Challenge - Challah

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of
Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of
Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Challah is one bread I must say I would never think to make. I thought it would be full of complicated steps and mystery that surrounds the Jewish religion for me. And just like learning about the Jewish faith through my patient husband and not so patient son, I have found a richness woven as tightly as the braid of bread. Challah is not complicated or time consuming to make as I had thought before this challenge. I made one batch starting around noon and it was there at the dinner table warm and inviting.

Ruth gave us three nice recipes and I made the Honey Oatmeal option. I cut the recipe in half making one loaf.  I also used the three strand braid. I know how to braid hair and it is the same technique. The bread was a little on the sweet side but I loved that hint of honey sweetness with the roasted chicken and vegetable we had for dinner.

Leftover Challah  is great for bread puddings, I hear from many sources. I have a couple of leftover loaves in the freezer waiting for this Memorial Day when I plan to whip up a Banana Caramel Bread Pudding. I will let you know how that goes later this week.

For now, here is the recipe I used. Do try to read the hints provided by Ruth at the end of the recipe. I found them very helpful.  If you have a couple of hours, you have time to make Challah!

The dough has risen!

Challah (Honey White)
(from Tammy’s Recipes

Servings: 2 loaves
1 ½ cups (360 ml) warm water, separated
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) (15 gm/½ oz sugar
2 Tbsp. (2-2/3 packets) (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) dry active yeast
½ cup (120 ml) honey
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) oil (light colored vegetable oil, or olive oil if you prefer)
4 large eggs
1 ½ tsp. 7½ ml) (9 gm) (1/3 oz) salt
5 cups (1200 ml) (700 gm/25 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
1. In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine ½ cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
2. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.
3. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
4. Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf (shaped or braided as desired).
5. Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
7. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with seeds or toppings here if wanted.)
8. Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done.
9. Cool on wire racks.

If only I could braid my hair as easily.
Notes from Ruth:
Making strands: There are two basic methods for forming the strands used to braid challah. The first, and easiest, is to simply roll snakes between your hands like when working with clay or play dough. The second method is to use a rolling pin to roll out a flat disc of dough, then using your hands to roll the disc into a snake, rolling the snake on the counter with your fingers to achieve the length you need. This second method does result in a better rise, but either way works well. Whichever method you use, form your strands such that they are thinner at the ends and fuller in the middle. This will help your challah rise in the center.
If you are new to braiding – do yourself a favor and practice before you shape your dough! Over working the dough will make for a tough loaf. Practice your braiding or shaping with clay or play dough first in order to become more comfortable.

Light and airy