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BBA #6: Challah

June 25, 2009
tags: ,

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A little late here on my BBA post for the week, and that’s mainly because I can’t think of much to say about this Challah other than (1) it’s delicious (challah is one of my favorite breads!), (2) it’s easy to make – probably the easiest of the BBA breads I’ve made so far – and (3) my braiding technique, while certainly not awful, could use a little refinement.

Oh, and one more thing: for a long time, I thought “challah” was pronounced with a hard “ch,” like “chair” or “cheese.” Lo and behold, I learned the c is silent, resulting in a pronounciation more like “hallah.” Which now, unfortunately, always makes me think “Holla!”, as “Holla if you want challah!” …and this, without fail, gives me the giggles.

What can I say; sometimes I crack myself up.

Challah is a traditional Jewish bread, rich with eggs, ever so slightly sweet, soft, and braided in any  number of shapes. I love to use it for French toast, bread pudding, or just toasted and spread with butter.

Anyway, this was the easiest of the breads to make so far, I thought. For one, it could be made all in one day, in about 5 hours from start to finish. I began by mixing together bread flour, eggs, egg yolks, salt, water, a little vegetable oil, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.

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After mixing those ingredients together, I kneaded the dough until it passed the windowpane test, which took me only about 6 minutes. Perhaps it was the weather — particularly amenable to kneading dough that day? — but it came together into a tacky, supple ball pretty quickly.

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I then set the ball of kneaded dough aside for its first rise.

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After it went through the first rise, I kneaded it briefly again to de-gas it, then set it back in the bowl for a second rise. Once it had then doubled in size, it was time to decide what kind of a braid I wanted to attempt. I decided to do Reinhart’s suggested “celebration challah,” which layers a small braid on top of a larger one. To do this, I started by dividing the dough into three equal pieces:

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then combined two of the pieces to create one larger hunk of dough, and one smaller one.

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Each of these two pieces were then cut into 3 equal portions…

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…and formed into balls.

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I rolled each ball into long ropes, starting with the three larger portions, and these ropes I then braided into a loaf.

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I repeated the same process with the smaller portions to give me a smaller braid. As you can see these are…not bad, but not perfect. The asymmetry kind of bugged me. I think I need to work on maintaining a consistent tension when I’m rolling the ropes, so I get strands of even thickness.

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I then laid the smaller braid on top of the larger one (and my mind briefly flitted to the petite brioche a tetes, where I had the detachment issue, and I wondered if the small braid would be secure on top of the large one. I just pressed it firmly down and crossed my fingers, and as you’ll see, everything did work out just fine.)

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Brushed the braid with egg wash, and let it proof for about 90 minutes.

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After it proofed, it was big and puffy and ready to bake!

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Wow – look at that loaf. That’s enough bread for one lovely celebration!

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The crumb was light, soft, and tender. I think this was a great challah recipe, rivaling the taste of ones I’ve bought in bakeries. I had a few slices warm with butter, and they were heavenly.

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Previous BBA Bread: Casatiello

Up next: Ciabatta! I’m looking forward to this one.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2009 5:11 pm

    Beautiful!!! I have actually never had Challah but it looks delish.

  2. June 25, 2009 5:24 pm

    Ooh. I like how you made a thick, celebration challah with the double braid. I have been wanting to make sandwiches out of mine, but I made two smaller loaves. This makes for sandwiches that are a lot daintier than I’d prefer! Your bread is beautifully shaped and browned.

  3. June 25, 2009 7:56 pm

    Gorgeous! I absolutely love the look of challah, especially the double braid. An uncle of mine is Jewish, and says the “ch” in challah is a bit like clearing your throat – just make sure not to spray saliva when you do it!

  4. June 26, 2009 12:11 am

    Wow! That bread is a cause for celebration, not the other way round :) Very well done, and thank goodness there wasn’t any detachment!

  5. June 26, 2009 2:18 am

    Hi, what a lovely looking bread – inside and out! Itching to try making it now :) Cheers!

  6. June 26, 2009 3:12 am

    Beautiful. You do so very good.
    Nice baking along with you,
    Susie

  7. June 26, 2009 8:55 am

    Wow! I completely fail when trying to make bread, but I will have to try this. Challah is my favorite bread for anything breakfast – frittata, french toast (classic, right), breakfast sandwiches… hmmm, hungry!

  8. Wendy permalink
    June 26, 2009 11:55 am

    Your challah looks wonderful! I can’t wait to make it this weekend.

  9. Aly permalink
    June 26, 2009 2:09 pm

    Could I get a copy of the recipe you used? It looks delicious!

  10. June 27, 2009 6:53 am

    Looks lovely Amy! I’m reading this on Saturday morning and all I am thinking about is turning that loaf into some French Toast!

  11. June 27, 2009 9:51 am

    whitney – thanks! And you really should pick some up at a bakery – I bet you’d really like it. :)

    Appoggiatura – thank you; sandwich rolls are a great idea. I should try that next time!

    Caitlin – hee hee, thanks for the clarification! Good to know about the throat-clearing pronounciation…though that now has me giggling a little too. ;)

    Manggy – I quite agree. We were willing to “celebrate” by marching it into our mouths. :)

    The Little Teochew, Susie – thanks!

    Holly – I love it for all those uses too.

    Wendy – have fun w/it!

    Aly – we’re actually not sharing the recipes for these challenges, since there are about 200 bloggers baking all of the breads from the book, in order…would be a bit like publishing the whole book online. :) But if you google “Peter Reinhart Challah recipe”, I bet you somewhere out there someone has put it online.

    sue – I know; I wish I had saved some to do that tomorrow morning…sadly we ate it all already. ;)

  12. June 27, 2009 10:01 am

    Gorgeous challah bread! I just attempted it on my blog :) Such a fun bread to make!

    Also, I just used to make your lemon and raspberry french toast – what an awesome recipe! I wrote about it on my blog, and linked to you!

    Great blog, I will be back often!

  13. June 29, 2009 10:59 pm

    I love your challah! It’s beautiful! Isn’t this baking group awesome? I’m learning so much.

  14. June 30, 2009 7:49 am

    I just recently found your blog and it is wonderful. That french toast using the Challah bread is something I have to try. I loved all the photos and explanation of making this bread. Being Jewish, I grew up with this bread and it does sound like Holla but comes more from the throat. I’m scared to try homeade bread but this looks so good I may have to challenge myself one day.

  15. July 6, 2009 6:00 am

    Gorgeous Challah!! I made one too, but not from BBA, it just so happens mine kind of coincided with the BBA challenge (I need to join up!), Regardless, your Challah would have made my Bubby proud. Beautifully done!

  16. July 20, 2009 12:52 pm

    Looks beautiful! I’ll have to search for the recipe and try it. I’ve never made a braided bread but I’ve read that if you start braiding in the middle and braid each side from that point it helps to even out the asymmetry and thickness. Just a thought. I really enjoy your blog!

  17. Warm and Light permalink
    February 11, 2010 8:29 pm

    MMMMMM! It came out really well-just look at my name. It’s not actually pronounced with a H sound- when people say it like that, it sounds a bit silly to me. :) It’s actually more like clearing your throat lighty.

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