I'm a gentile. There. I said it. I had to get it out there. I have no business making challah in my home. But, I did grow up with a mother who passionately loves every Jewish person she has ever met, with a fervor that sometimes makes me think she wishes she could convert. As a result, you can often find me buying matzoh and coconut macaroons as soon as they're seasonally available, making latkes left and right and other such things. I even save the schmaltz after roasting a chicken and use it for different meals.
We are always buying challah downtown because the kids love it. I've been thinking I should try my hand at it. My friend has a new blog called The dinner chronicles, and I'm always impressed that there's a loaf of freshly made challah on her table. Because I have an obsession with multi-tasking, I threw making a loaf of challah into the Sunday that also included assembling a cassoulet. I'm a glutton for punishment.
If you've been a long time reader (my sister), you know that I have had a running issue with yeasted breads, specifically sourdough. I've never totally flopped a loaf, but they're never as good as I expect them to be. Mostly I'm scared. Yeasties are alive, and they can smell the fear. I feel like if I don't coddle them correctly, they'll misbehave. They need a lot of positive reinforcement, those little buggers. Kind of like the other little buggers that live in my house.
I used the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart (see below), and I'm happy to report that it was a success. There's only a small chunk left, and I won't be surprised if it disappears as soon as the kids get back from school.
from the Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart
- Stir together 4 cups bread flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/3 instant yeast in a mixing bowl or bowl of the electric mixer. In a separate bowl whisk together 2 tablespoons veg oil, 2 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks (Thanks, Kelly!) and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add up to 6 more tablespoons water, if needed.
- Knead for about ten minutes by hand, or at medium low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook of the food processor. Sprinkle in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should pass the windowpane test, and register approx. at 80 degrees.
- Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a bowl, and transfer into oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat with oil. Ferment at room temperature for one hour. (I let it go even longer than this because I left the house - bad bread maker!)
- Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to de-gas. Reform it into a bowl and return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1.5 times its original size.
- Remove from the bowl and divide it into three equal pieces. Form each into a ball, cover with a towel and let rest for ten minutes.
- Roll the pieces out into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid them together. Line a sheet pan with parchment and transfer loaf to the pan. Brush the loaf with the leftover egg whites. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Proof for 60-75 minutes or until the dough has grown to 1.5 times it's original size.
- Preheat oven to 350degrees (convection if you have it)
- Bake for 20 mintues. Rotate pan 180degrees and continue baking for 20-45 minutes depending on the size of the loag. The bread should be a rich golden brown and register 190degrees in the center.
- When done, transfer to a rack and cool for at least one hour before slicing or serving.