Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making a change

So this post is about a big change. Well, maybe not so big. Maybe it's a little change, but I like it. I have (drumroll, please) changed my challah recipe! I was so proud of developing the recipe, and here I am messing with it, the very act that eventually scared me off of challah baking altogether, back in the 90's. So why mess with it? Laziness. No, seriously, one of the chief issues I had with my recipe was that one egg yolk, because I was not happy with the separating and the subsequent brain-racking to decide what to do with the leftover white. Do I go the easy way out and just toss it? Do I respect the egg and its source and save it for a future recipe? Do I stress over the growing mass of eggwhites building in the freezer and annoying me? I happened upon this recipe by Carine Goren, an Israeli food writer, on her website. It has a very helpful video, with the added bonus of instructions for braiding five strands, but it is in Hebrew, both the video and the text, so if you are not up to it, here I come to save the day.

The other reason that I like this recipe is that it is totally counter-intuitive to any other challah recipe I have ever made. Instead of adding in the water and then adding flour until the dough seems right, you add in all the flour from the outset, and adjust the water to that. The other advantage is that I never have to worry that the amount of flour I am using (1 kilo) is getting close to the no-man's land between taking challah without a bracha and not being required to take at all. It is the water that changes, not the flour. This recipe also appears on the Shimrit website (that is the nifty granulated fresh yeast I mentioned before), but again, also in Hebrew. I am not sure how this would work with regular dry yeast, but since it follows the same basic techniquw as a breadmaker, it logically seems to follow. My only alteration - I have slightly increased the amount of sugar, as the Israeli concept of what a sweet challah is and the American ideal are a little different.

Sweet Challah
1 kilo flour (about 7 cups)
1 package Shimrit yeast (about 5 teaspoons dry yeast, but I have never tried it)
1 package meshaper afiya, optional (the original does not call for it, but I like it - the dough improver I have mentioned before)
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (3/4 is the original amount listed)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
up to 2 cups warm water
egg wash - 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Empty all the flour into the mixer bowl. Add in yeast and meshaper afiya and stir well to combine. Mix in sugar, salt, oil, and eggs. Add about 1 1/4 cups of the water. Use the dough hook to mix. After a minute or two, check to see if the mixture seems dry. If so, add a little more water (I have never needed more that 1 1/2 cups, but it could be an environmental issue, so your amount needed could vary a lot). Scrape down and continue to mix, kneading the dough for about 10 minutes. You can also do some kneading by hand, if you are so inclined. Put the dough in a greased bowl, turning to cover all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to rise for 2-3 hours, until doubled. Punch down and shape the loaves, placing onto parchment lined pans. (Carine Goren lightly flours her surface where she makes the "snakes" and flattens each piece before rolling it up, rather that just rolling a ball of dough into a snake. I find it works nicely.) Let rise about an hour, then brush with an egg wash of 1 beaten egg and a tablespoon of water. Bake at 350 for about 1/2 an hour. Cool on a rack, and enjoy!
I will add pictures to this at a later point, but if you are getting ready for Shabbat now and thought about baking challot, here you are!

1 comment:

pragmaticattic said...

Thanks for sharing, Dvora! This is an interesting approach to adjusting the moisture of the dough. I read in a cookbook by a bakery owner (the village baker, p.273) that he has found that you can get a better texture with challah if you mix the dough and then add a little more water toward the end of mixing. After the gluten has developed, the dough can take a little more water. He says it makes for a more "voluptuous texture."
I have been mixing my dough with just the water and eggs and adding the sugar/oil/salt after the dough has mixed in the mixer for a while. I read that sugar/oil/salt interfere with gluten development and that adding them later makes for lighter loaves. My challah has been really rising very light lately (and I use all whole wheat--lately using Rubinfeld flour)

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