Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Dinner Series Bonus: Challah!

I've got one of these in the oven right now, so what better time to post?

There are times I'm glad I don't do a vlog/audio component to these entries.  One of the docs I work with keeps criticizing my pronunciation of 'challah.'  I guess I just can't make that Hebrew/Yiddish 'ch' sound properly...
Deb once told me about a wonderful bakery in Winnipeg that closed many years ago.  According to her, they made the best challah.  I've always thought it was a beautiful loaf of bread, and so versatile... good for dinner, breakfast, French toast, etc.  I've also heard that it can be challenging to braid.  What's that?  A food challenge?  Accepted!

When we had Deb over for a roast beef dinner, I decided to surprise her with my first-ever challah efforts.  She was definitely surprised!!  I felt like a whole slew of Babas were rolling over in their graves at the thought of two goyim (me and Hubs) working in the kitchen- he with the laptop+YouTube, me with the six strands of bread dough- trying to make this thing work.  And work it did!  After the first bite, our guest exclaimed, "Y'know what this reminds me of?  Did I ever tell you about that bakery that closed..."  YES!

It's somehow fitting that I got the recipe for this loaf from another Deb, over at Smitten Kitchen.  Her blog is something that all other food blogs aspire to, I'm sure (I know I do).  I cut her recipe in half (I don't usually have a use for two loaves at once), and use black sesame seeds instead of poppy seeds (I prefer them, myself).  In terms of braiding, this is why Hubs was holding the laptop for me in the kitchen...

Very, very helpful.

Best Challah (Egg Bread)
Adapted from Joan Nathan by Deb @ Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 loaf
  • 3/4 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1/2 tablespoon sugar in 7/8 cups lukewarm water.
  2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid - it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done)
  3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
  4. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, form the dough into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together.  Watch the YouTube video I posted :P Then place braided loaf on a greased cookie sheet.
  5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaf. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.
  6. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.
  7.  Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.
Note: Any of the three risings can be done in the fridge for a few hours, for more deeply-developed flavor. When you’re ready to work with it again, bring it back to room temperature before moving onto the next step.

I also made this for Christmas/Chanukkah this year, for my aunt, uncle and cousins.  The whole family gobbled it up!!
Off to enjoy a traditional brisket dinner at Deb's tonight and celebrate the Oscars,

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