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16.5.12

MAGNIFICENT CHALLAH


Even though I already had an excellent challah recipe via George Greenstein, I kept going back to Karen’s challah at Expert Village. Experts tend to complicate things. Challah is just bread, so why it has to be made so complicated is lost on me. Throw together the ingredients and be done with it right? Still, I found Karen’s videos useful. Jewish mothers have done this for centuries. Karen’s challah videos are included in succession at the end of this recipe and it is only right I credit her. It was the extraordinary lofty texture of her challah that kept me going back, trying to make this recipe one of mine. Goodness gracious it wasn’t the flavour, I have never been a fan of the taste honey gives to baking. The first change I made was replacing the honey with sugar [a little more than required] and with additional water. It became clear early on that my Classic Kitchen Aid was not up to par with Karen's industrial strength mixer. This called for a different approach. I placed all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. As soon as the dough formed, I divided it into 3 equal parts and then kneaded each part separately with a dough hook for full five minutes. [If you don’t have a beater with a dough hook, kneed the dough by hand for ten minutes.] I then combined the 3 parts on the board. Since it was no longer sticking, I then slapped it down on the board 100 times. This is to develop the gluten. After that, the dough was ready for the first rising. Karen did not include oven temperature so I opted for 350F. There was lots of egg wash from one egg, so I brushed my challahs twice. The second time I tried this recipe I made 3, 4 and a 6 braid challahs. But after making the six-braid challah, I will never make a three or four braid again. The difference was nothing short of incredible! The six-braid challah rises very high. I tried several six braiding instructions before I found a simple easy to follow video. Once again, it’s amazing how complicated people make something that should be so easy. You work with the two outside strands all the time, alternating between the two sides. Which side you begin to braid makes no difference. All along, you keep alternating between the two sides braiding with the two outside strands. Watch the video; six braiding really is simple.



Finally, after several runs at Karen’s recipe, I arrived at the loftiest and most delicious and easy to follow recipe for challah and here it is:

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2-1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
2-1/8 cups of lukewarm water
1/4 cup oil
1 Tbsp salt
8 cups white bread flour [do NOT use all purpose flour]
oil for greasing
parchment paper
1 lightly beaten egg for egg wash
poppy seeds or sesame seeds for sprinkling [optional]

• Place the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
• Add 5 cups of bread flour.
• Mix to combine.
• Transfer dough to a well-floured board and gradually kneed the remaining three cups of bread flour into the dough.
• If you don’t have a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, omit the following six steps and kneed the dough by hand for ten minutes.
• If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, divide the dough into 3 equal parts.
• Place one part into a stand mixer.
• With the dough hook attachment kneed the dough for five minutes.
• Place the kneaded dough on the board. The dough will no longer stick.
• One by one knead the remaining dough.
• When all three parts are kneaded, combine them by hand.
• Slap the dough down on the board 100 times. This fully develops the gluten.
• When you push down, the dough should feel firm and push back.
• Transfer to a large oiled bowl, turn to coat, and let rise, covered, until dough has tripled in volume.
• The dough is fully risen when an indentation made with a finger into the center remains and does not recede.
• Punch down the dough, and divide into 2 or 3 pieces [depending on the size of challah you prefer to make. This time I made three.
• Form the dough into balls, cover, and let them rise for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
• Punch down again and using your palms roll 6 long ropes from each ball of dough, tapering the ends to a point. You don’t need to flour the board, but if you must, dust with the smallest amount of flour only. Flour makes rolling and braiding difficult.
• By the time all the strands are rolled out, the first six you have rolled are ready for braiding.
• Place the 6 ropes in a fan shape and pinch the pointy end of the fan together.

Like this:

• From here on, I will be referring to only two strands: an outside one and an inside one.
• Pick a side, it doesn’t matter which side you start braiding.
• 1. The inside one you picked goes all the way to the end.
• 2. The outside one goes in the middle.
• 3. Now go over to the other side.
• 4. The inside strand goes all the way to the end.
• 5. The outside one goes in the middle.
• 6. Now go over to the other side.
• Repeat the six steps until you run out of dough.
• Tuck the ends under.
• Transfer the braided the challahs to the prepared baking sheets.
• Brush with the egg wash, using care to cover completely, but do not let excess egg drip into the crevices.
• Let the egg wash dry and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired.
• Let the challahs double in size.
• Preheat the oven to 350°F.
• Brush with egg wash a second time.
• Bake for 25 to 35 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven until the loaves have a rich mahogany color and emit a hollow sound when tapped lightly on the bottom.
• If the top begins to brown excessively and the bottom is raw, cover the bread with a sheet of parchment paper or tent it with aluminum foil.
• To test for doneness, press lightly between the braids on the highest part of the bread; it should be firm.
• If you feel the creases give when lightly pressed, continue baking until they firm up.
• Let the challah cool on a wire rack.


Karen's Challah

Introduction
Ingredients

Making the Dough with a KitchenAid Mixer:
Mixing the Wet Ingredients
Adding the Flour
Knead the Dough

or:

Making the Dough by Hand:
Making Dough by Hand
Prepare the Challah Dough to Rise

Shaping the Challah:
Shaping the Three Strand Challah
Shaping the Four Strand Challah
Shaping the Six Strand Challah Part 1
Shaping the Six Strand Challah Part 2
Shaping the Round Challah

Baking the Challah:
Egg Wash and Baking

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It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!

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