BBA #6: Challah
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.
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.
I then set the ball of kneaded dough aside for its first rise.
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:
then combined two of the pieces to create one larger hunk of dough, and one smaller one.
Each of these two pieces were then cut into 3 equal portions…
…and formed into balls.
I rolled each ball into long ropes, starting with the three larger portions, and these ropes I then braided into a loaf.
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.
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.)
Brushed the braid with egg wash, and let it proof for about 90 minutes.
After it proofed, it was big and puffy and ready to bake!
Wow – look at that loaf. That’s enough bread for one lovely celebration!
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.
Previous BBA Bread: Casatiello
Up next: Ciabatta! I’m looking forward to this one.