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Thing-a-weekend: Challah - Strolling II [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Thing-a-weekend: Challah [Feb. 17th, 2008|09:33 pm]
[Current Location |home, of course]
[mood |placid]
[music |the dishwasher]

Tonight I made challah, a traditional Jewish egg bread often made in the shape of a braid. I used the recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook (which calls it, euphemistically, "egg bread"...guess they didn't want to alienate the anti-semitic population!) because I only had one packet of yeast, and other recipes called for 2 and made more bread than I really wanted. (I suppose I could have halved them, but they all called for heavy-duty mixers with bread hooks to mix the dough, and I felt sad because I only have a handheld mixer. The BH&G recipe only needed a handheld.)

Problem: my dough didn't rise significantly when I left it. I suspect my packet of yeast was dead (though it sure did smell yeasty, and the mixture got warm when I added the wet ingredients). In the end it got quite a bit bigger in the oven, and with a little extra cooking, it cooked all the way through and actually has an okay texture. I brushed the loaf with egg and sprinkled sesame seeds, which gives it a nice sheen. The seeds toasted, which I love, but taste a little off even after that; I need to get some fresh ones. Also I should have added salt. It's a little bland.

I just ate a warm slice with butter. This is a milestone: I may not have made perfect bread, but for the first time I made bread I am okay with eating, which says something, as I'm not usually a bread person. Yay!

[User Picture]From: pfahnlisa
2008-02-18 04:48 am (UTC)
Oooh! Challah is yummy! There's a huge Jewish community in St. Louis so we get a lot of Jewish cooking for our once a month Site Dinner for the SCA group here (Barony of Three Rivers). We just had challah last month.
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-02-18 05:28 am (UTC)
I remember bringing hamantaschen to one of the monthly potluck/moot thingies in Falcon's Keep once. I was amazed when it came time to eat, and the UWSP student in line ahead of me picked one up and said, "Hey, hamantaschen, I love these." In Plover, WI no less! I had thought no one would recognize them.

I don't think you were involved in the group yet, or I'd suspect it of being you. ;) This would have been sometime in 1998.
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[User Picture]From: eithni
2008-02-18 05:18 am (UTC)
Hey! I almost did challah for my T-a-D...

So, two bits of advice - first, proof the yeast - yeast is magic, but you may as well check that it is actually potent magic before you ruin your dough. Mix the yeast, some of the water warmed to about 100*, and a small amount of sugar in a bowl. The yeast should poof up and smell... er... yeasty before it is added to the other ingredients. Second, what the heck do you need a mixer for? Challah should be kneaded by hand - beating/kneading the dough is half the fun! ;)

As far a recipes goes, I use:
* 2 pkg. yeast
* 1 tsp. sugar
* 1/4 cup water warmed to 105-115 degrees
* 6 cups flour
* 1 Tbs. salt
* 2 cups of water warmed to 105-115 degrees
* 3 eggs slightly beaten
* 1/4 cup oil
* 3 Tbs. sugar

Combine first 3 ingredients. Combine flour & salt. Make a well in the flour, and add the yeast mixture. Add rest of ingredients. Beat well until ball forms. Knead on floured board, adding flour as necessary, until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled. Punch down and divide into 2 sections; knead. Mold & divide each section as needed: into sculptures, bowls, braids, etc. Place on greased baking sheets. Brush with egg wash. ** Let rise until doubled. Brush with egg wash again. Bake at 400º F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375º F for 45 minutes.

** Note: when making bowls or sculptures, do not let rise until doubled. Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes after shaping, then bake. Your oven time will be a lot less and will depend on the mass of the object you are baking. Keep an eye on your bread and bake at 375º F until brown & done.
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[User Picture]From: baron_berwyn
2008-02-18 05:45 am (UTC)
What year is your cookbook? Some of the older ones tend to use names easily understood by midwesterners. I'd made several batches of "Twice Baked Cookies" from a 1970 Italian cookbook. Wasn't til I brought some to an event I found out it was really called Biscotti.
My three attempts at challah were tasty, if chewy, but the doctor says I shouldn't eat a whole loaf of bread in an afternoon, so now I make do with a dinner roll.
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[User Picture]From: aryanhwy
2008-02-18 09:04 am (UTC)
Congrats! The success of actually being able to make breaad is pretty heady (not to mention the fact you get fresh, hot bread). I'm really glad I stuck with trying long enough to finally be able to get it, because the results are so tasty!
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[User Picture]From: wendybyrd
2008-02-18 11:22 pm (UTC)

I love challah

Our household has a wonderful recipe for it. It is the_apricot's family recipe.
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[User Picture]From: arebekah
2008-02-19 03:57 am (UTC)
Congratulations!! Yeast and I don't get along - probably has to do with the way I cook - by adding a bit of whatever I feel like at the time to the recipe - I've had some tasty flatbread failures, though.
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[User Picture]From: hbevert
2008-02-19 05:43 am (UTC)
Hurrah for daring to make something you don't do all the time! May your next loaf be everything you want it to be.
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