Thursday, March 19, 2009

Challah

This bread drove me crazy. For the first batch, I tried making the dough in my bread maker and forgot to add water, so my "dough" ended up looking like cornmeal. The second batch didn't rise. At all. So, I tested my yeast. I bought new bread flour and super fresh eggs. I was determined that a loaf of challah would not defeat me. In the end, the third time was the charm, even though the process ended up taking most of the day. My third attempt came out great. It was golden brown, beautiful, and made absolutely delicious french toast.



Challah Bread
Recipe from
Epicurious
Makes 2 loaves


INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 tsp bread machine or instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup warm water
2 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 3/4 cup of the flour, then whisk in the warm water until smooth. Let the yeast slurry stand uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

Whisk the 2 eggs, oil, salt, and sugar into the puffed yeast slurry until the eggs are well incorporated and the salt and sugar have dissolved. With your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining 3 cups (400 grams/14.7 ounces) flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead it until smooth and soft, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now, to clean it and warm it if you would like to use it for fermenting the dough.) Or, if you like, the dough can be very quickly kneaded in a food processor: Mix the ingredients together in a bowl as directed, cut the rough dough in half, and process one half at a time, then knead the halves together. If the dough is too firm to easily knead, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour.

The dough should feel smooth and firm and knead easily without sticking to the work surface.

Place the dough in the warm cleaned bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. (Or, the dough can be refrigerated right after kneading, then removed from the refrigerator to finish fermenting up to 24 hours later.) Let the dough ferment until it has at least doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. (If it has been refrigerated, the dough will take an extra 30 to 60 minutes to ferment.)

Line one or two large baking sheets, depending on how many breads you are making, with parchment paper or oil them. Divide the dough into two 1-pound (450-gram) portions for loaves, one 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) portion for a large loaf and three smaller pieces for rolls (the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough into quarters and use three of them for the bread and the other for the rolls), or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) portions for rolls. To make a New Year's spiral*, roll each portion into a long, even strand, preferably sheeting it out first.

For each portion:

Wind the dough tightly around on the prepared sheet, without leaving any space between the loops, and be sure that the last loop is bound with a bit of tension. This will force the dough to rise in the center as it is proofing and especially during the oven rise.

Cover the loaves well with plastic wrap. (At this point, the loaves can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) Let proof until tripled in size, about 1 1/2 hours (or up to 2 1/2 hours if the loaves were refrigerated).

Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower third positions if using two baking sheets, or arrange one rack in the upper third position if using one baking sheet, and remove any racks above them. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing the bread.

When the loaves have tripled and do not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remain indented, brush them with the egg glaze. Bake loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, until very well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, switch the loaves from front to back so that they brown evenly; if the large loaf is browning too quickly, tent it with foil. When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack.

6 comments:

Joanne said...

Challah is by far one of my favorite breads...makes me wish I had a bread machine!

Michele said...

That looks beautiful. I love how glossy Challah is. You did a great job!

Kevin said...

What a nice looking crust on that challah!

annie said...

That looks awesome!

I like that it's tagged vegetarian. No meat bread. :)

Elizabeth said...

Believe it or not, Annie, I actually have a recipe for a bread that has pepperoni mixed in the dough. ;)

Sophie said...

I locve Challah bread! I recently discovered it & it is so yummie!! rich but yummie!!
Yours looks delicious!!