I was breaking Yom Kippur fast at a friend’s house so I decided that Challah is traditional, pretty and not that hard to make. At the onset, my husband did not fail to remind me that although I made Challah before, I have never done it successfully. The bread always came out either to greasy or dense or both.
He also chastised me for making the bread roughly the size of a tire. I mean it was huge. He urged me to leave half of it at home, but I wouldn’t budge… I took the whole thing and not a piece was left.
I took the recipe from the book called “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking”. I had to think about the method for a little bit to avoid the density in the bread. I realized that since Challah dough requires a lot of fat ( butter or oil, eggs) over kneading might have been my problem. When fat particles stay large in any dough, they give it lightness and “lift”. If you mix or knead the dough to much you are at risk for very heavy bread without any crumb as all the fat particles have been reduced to a tiny size. Challah or any fortified bread dough, such as Brioch, has to be approached with an opposite mentality as regular bread dough, which only contains flour, yeast, water and salt. The more you knead the regular bread dough, the more gluten develops, the better tasting bread you will have. This time around I exercised restraint.
This Challah came out pretty well. First of all, I made one loaf out of dough portioned for at least 2 or maybe even 3. I had to adjust the cooking temperature and time, but the recipe below is for the normal size Challah ( if round, about 8’ or 9’ in diameter). Second, Challah bread should pull apart in long airy strands. Mine was a bit crumbly for my taste, but I suspect it is because I used oil and not butter. The book suggests this substitution. I also use instant yeast instead of granulated, and the amount makes a difference. My husband’s comment was that the Challah should have been sweeter, I will leave that up to you ( see notes below).
1 ¾ cups of lukewarm water. You can use milk but the bread might come out greasy
1 ½ Tbs of Granulated Yeast, If using instant use 1 ¾ TBS
1 ½ Tbs of salt
½ cup of melted butter or vegetable oil
¼ cup of honey. Use a bit more if you like your Challah sweeter or use the combination of ¼ cup of honey and 1 Tbs of sugar
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.
1 egg for eggwash
2 tbs of poppy seeds ( optional)
( makes 2 large Challahs or 3 smaller ones)
Combine the water, Yeast, salt, eggs, butter ( or oil) and honey in the bowl. Wisk slightly and let stand for 10 min. Using a dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon add all 7 cups of flour at once. Slowly mix together until the no more flour is showing. The dough should still look pretty lumpy. At this point cover the dough with plastic wrap and walk away. Resist the urge to knead or mix anymore.
Let the dough rise about 2 hrs or until it is doubled in size. Turn out to very well floured surface and knead very gently for no more than a 1-2 min. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. If not baking the same day place the dough in the lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the dough by putting it into several freezer proof zip tip bags. On baking day, let the dough come to room temperature before forming the loafs.
Form the Challah by dividing the dough into 3 equal strands and breading. Or you can divide into 4 or 6 and use the basket weave, which is what I used.
Cover the formed Challah with a tea towel and let rise on the counter for 1 ½ to 2 hrs. In the mean time, preheat the oven to 360F. If using baking tiles or stones, pre-heat for no less than 30 min, better a full hour.
Right before baking, paint the loaf with a beaten egg and sprinkle poppy seeds on top ( if using)
Bake the Challah directly on the stones ( or a baling sheet) for 25 - 30 min. minutes or until the top is golden and when tapped, the breads sounds hollow.
Let cool completely on the cooling rack. Resist the urge to eat hot bread, it is never as good as the one that fully cooled!