Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rebecca's Challah

My husband claims I have made challah before, but I don't remember doing so. I have made many different kinds of bread, including black bread, which requires Postum, a coffee like drink made from grains (?)In fact, for the last 30 or so years, I made bread every couple of weeks because I don't like store bread. So I guess you could call me an experienced baker.
Nonetheless when I started out to make the challah, on the Sunday before school started, the phrasing of the directions kind of threw me. Challah takes a long time to make, because the recipe requires it to rise three times. The first time, it said to "knead the dough in the bowl." What it should have said was to mix the dough in the bowl, because the first time the baker is doing what old cookbooks called "setting the sponge." When you set the sponge, you mix up the wet ingredients and about half the flour and let it rise. Then, you add the rest of the flour and knead it on the counter. Well, since the recipe told me to knead the dough, I started adding the rest of the flour, because one cannot knead dough with only half the flour. You get a sticky mess.
My misunderstanding did not affect the quality of the bread. The recipe made two loaves, one which I attempted to braid in the traditional manner and the other which I baked in a loaf pan. It was exceedingly good for white bread and the loaf made very good sandwiches.
As long as you allot enough time (about seven hours) to make this recipe, and understand what you are doing in the first go-round, Challah is easy enough to make. Braiding is a little tricky for those of us who are digitally challenged, but doing it wrong doesn't make a huge difference to the taste.

Rebecca's Challah

2 packages active dry yeast
8 teaspoons plus one half cup sugar
7 3/4 cups white flour
2 1/4 cups warm water
1/2 cup plue one tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons coarse salt (sea salt)
3 eggs
poppy seeds

1. Place the yeast two teaspoons of the sugar and two tablespoons of the flour in a tall glass. Add three-quarters cup of the water and mix well. Set in a warm place, uncovered.
2. In a big bowl, place four cups of the flour. Add one and one-half cups of the water, one-half cup of the oil, one-half cup of the sugar, the salt and two of the eggs and mix well.
3. When the yeast mixture reaches the top of the glass, add to the batter in the bowl. Mix well and gradually add three more cups of the flour. Stir the mixture in the bowl until very smooth and elastic. Cover and set in a warm place about five hours or until doubled in bulk.
4. Knock dough down and add about two-thirds cup more of the flour, kneading well to give it a soft but not sticky dough. Oil the top of the dough with remianing oil. Cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about two and one half hours.
5. Knead again. Divide dough in two. Shape into two loaves to fit greased 9-by-5-by-3 inch loaf pans and place in pans, or braid and set on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
7. Combine the remaining egg and remaining sugar and brush over the top of the loaves. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired. Bake about forty-five minutes or until done. Makes two loaves.

1 comment:

  1. I think I tried it once, in one of my bread making spurts. It should make very good sandwich bread as it's very closely related to brioche which also makes excellent sandwiches, french toast, etc.