Challah makes me holla…

still on a bread making kick. have made a number of really delicious loaves from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Bread.  White, olive, pizza crust, an adaptation of a nut/fruit loaf. Today I made challah and the hardest part was the braiding.

Challah is the Jewish Sabbath bread and it can be made in a simple spiral shape or braided.  According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon) and two holiday meals (one at night and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of bread. This “double loaf” commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. The manna did not fall on Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before the holiday or sabbath. Each single loaf is woven with six strands. Together, both loaves have twelve which represent each tribe of Israel.

My 1 small loaf only had 4 strands and was consumed on Sunday afternoon–proving that, while steeped in tradition and symbolism, Challah is for everyone. And with the following recipe, anyone can make a beautiful loaf.

Ingredients, makes one small loaf
250g or 2 cups white flour
4g or 3/4 teaspoon salt
15g or 1 tablespoon sugar
3g or 1 teaspoon dried/active dry yeast
80g or 1/3 cup warm water
1 medium/large egg yolk
1 whole medium/large egg
20g or 1 generous tablespoon oil (called for sunflower oil, i used canola)
1 egg, beaten with a pick of salt, for the egg wash
poppy or sesame seeds

1. in one smaller bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar. this is the dry mixture.

2. in a larger bowl, mix yeast and water. stir with wooden spoon until yeast is dissolved.

3. lightly beat whole egg and yolk together. add it to yeast/water. this is the wet mixture.

4. add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. stir with wooden spoon and then mix in the oil until well combined.

5. cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

6. now for kneading. leaving the dough in the bowl, pull a portion of it up from the side and press it into the middle. turn the bowl slightly and repeat this process with another portion of the dough. repeat this 8 times. the whole process should only take about 10 seconds and the dough should start to resist.

7. let the dough rest for another 10 minutes.

8. repeat steps 6 and 7, two more times.

9. Cover the bowl and let rest for 1 hour (I let mine rest for 2 hours because took my dog Lilly for a walk).

10. When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down with your fist to release the air.

11. lightly dust work surface (i just put down a piece of parchment paper) with flour. remove ball of dough from the bowl and place it on the floured surface.

12. at this point i cut my dough into 4 equal pieces. i found a really easy braiding guide online but basically, you pinch all 4 strand together at one end. starting with the strand at the far right, go over, under, over the remaining strands. do this, always starting with the strand on the far right, until the strands are completely braided. pinch the ends together and fold under the loaf.

13. brush it all over with the egg wash and sprinkle with seeds.

14. cover and let rise until less than double the size, about 30-45 minutes.

15. about 20 mins into the rise i started to preheat my stove to 475 degrees. place a roasting pan at the bottom of the oven to preheat. fill a cup with water and set aside.

16. place the challah in the preheated oven (i used a pizza stone to cook the bread on), pour the reserved water into the hot roasting pan (to create the steam needed to make the perfect crust) and lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

17. bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

this loaf has a beautiful texture with just a hint of sweetness. it could be enjoyed with savory or sweet food. or like we enjoyed it tonight, all by itself, straight from the oven.

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