Making Challah

So, after Monday and Tuesday’s cookie experiments, and Thursday’s bread experiments, I made challah today (Friday 15 December). Challah, it turns out, is significantly more trouble, and particularly with dry yeast — apparently I’m supposed to proof the yeast first, which means that I have to put it in a bowl with some sugar and water to get it going, and THEN add it to the flour mixture. This will make it rise more, and faster, with a more fluffy and lighter crumb and lighter crust (I’m starting to get some of this bread terminology again).

All the same, it was marvelous bread.

Challah is a four- or five-stage process. At the end of the first stage, you have a glutinous, eggy mass that looks like this:

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You leave it to rise for an hour and a half. You punch it down, and cut it into three equal pieces, which you then leave to rise for another 15 minutes:

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This is followed by rolling the three balls into strands, and then braiding them:

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You drizzle a mixture of egg-yolk and water over the braiding, and add poppy seeds, before baking for forty-two minutes (in theory it takes anywhere from 40-60 minutes. I chose 42, for obvious reasons but I think it could have gone for 35 minutes without too much trouble).

The final result looks something like this.

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This is how it looked with the Hanukkah feast that laid out for us:

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And you don’t even need to cut it… you just pull it into sections.

The bread reviews were largely good. I was pleased, and I decided to do this recipe again soon. As in, today, Saturday, for and the Quantum Redhead. This second time, I kneaded it more, and got a much more evenly textured dough. The bread should come out even more lovely the second time around, but our guests can speak to its effectiveness better than I can, later.

8 comments

  1. It was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?

    Let’s plan on doing it again. With more poets, and maybe a potluck supper, hmm? So the food can be utterly amazing and the conversation even more so.

  2. Victor & I will attest to the utter yumminess of the challah. Thanks again for having us! The food was amazing & the conversation was better.

    Now I just need a week to sit down with that book on midrash…

  3. Of course you want bread for breakfast…

    … but alas, you should have baked it last night. 🙂

    I’m reading one poem in the Open Mic tonight, but I’m performing at Reflections Café in Providence, RI, on Wickenden Street on Tuesday night. Come on down and see!

  4. Ooh, now I want bread for breakfast. Looks delicious. And thanks for mentioning egg yolk and water. I’ve always beaten a whole egg, and it’s too thick to spread properly over the dough.

    Do I remember you’re doing a poetry performance tonight? Good luck!

  5. That’s fine-lookin’ Challah, my friend.

    I have not had a Chanukka feast in some time . . . I don’t miss them much, though there’s nothing like those ultra-thin latkes my mother used to make. Mmmmmmmm, wintery yuminess.

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