The Baking Illustrated Challenge: Challah


Cook Book: Baking Illustrated

Challenge: The Baking Illustrated Challenge

Menu/recipe: Challah

This bread is traditionally made for the Jewish Sabbath. It took me a while to get the braiding down till I realized it was like braiding hair. Unfortunately the top braid decided to scoot over to the side while the bread was baking. This week has just been an off week for me. I’ve made two other recipes that I was not impressed with and that is why I will not be blogging about them. This recipe is excellent but the presentation was difficult since the bread decided to have a mind of its own. I am going to have to re-try making this again and hopefully the bread will stay upright.  The bread has a shiny crust on the outside, and a light tender center. It is also an eggy/slightly sweet bread. I love the fact that they use every part of the egg and there was very little egg wash left over at then end of the recipe. I like not having to throw away  a ton of egg yolks or whites at the end of the day. I decided to sprinkle the bread with poppy-seed. Beware this takes a lot of time to make so if you are looking for something quick look elsewhere. However, most of the time is spent letting it rise multiple times. Only a fraction of the time is spent preparing and actually baking the bread.

Notes/Thoughts in progress: I would also recommend making sure that the bottom braid is a lot bigger than the top so it can support the top braid. I even measured my dough to make sure that the top was half the size and even then my top braid slid off to the side. It might have been that I used too much egg wash and perhaps that is why the dough slid off? Also I measure my flour in ounces. I have found that measuring this way takes a lot of the guess-work out of baking. Good luck and this bread is worth baking 🙂

Challah

3-31/4 cups (15 to 16 1/4 ounces) unbleached all- purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar

4 teaspoons salt

2 large eggs plus 1 egg separated (reserve the white for the egg wash)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature

1 teaspoon poppy or seasme seeds (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt, set aside. In th2 bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and 1/2 cup of the water. Add the flour mixture; using the dough hook, kneed at low speed unitl a ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. In a small bowl, whisk the reserved egg white together with the remaining 1 tablespoon water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the egg wash until ready to use.

2. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough over to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently press the dough to deflate it, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size again, 40-60 minutes.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half the size of the other. Divide the large piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 16 inch  long rope, about 1 inch in diameter. Line up the ropes of dough side by side and braid them together, pinching the ends of the braid to seal them. Place the braid on a lightly greased baking sheet. Divide the smaller piece of dough into 3 equal pieces, 1/2 inch in diameter. Braid together, pinching the ends to seal. Brush some of the egg wash on the top of the large loaf and place the small braid on the larger braid. Loosely drape the loaf with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the loaf becomes puffy and increases in size by a third.

4. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven t o375 degrees. brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with the poppy seeds (if using). bake the loaf for 30-40 minutes, or until it is golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the side of the loaf reads 190 degrees. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack. Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.

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