Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baking Challah, Really Easy, So Simple. Anyone Can Do It

fermenting yeast dough before
adding more flour
The first time I ever baked challah, I was a young mother and had never before in my life seen how it's done.  I had no idea how the fermenting dough was supposed to look, nor did I know how yeast dough was supposed to feel.  In those days, about forty years ago, the only yeast I could buy was the fresh yeast.  Unfortunately, I discovered that I was allergic to handling it.  I suffered swelling around my fingernails, but I found a solution.  I worked in light, white cotton gloves.  Nowadays I only use dehydrated yeast. It keeps for years if kept in a dry place, like the pantry in a clean, dry glass jar.  I've never had an allergic reaction to it.  Another advantage of the dehydrated yeast is that you can be spontaneous about baking challah or any other yeast recipe.

If I had a large freezer, I'd be able to keep home-made challah in it, which had been baked whenever I have time to do it.  I just don't have enough time before Shabbat most weeks.  I always heat the challah on top of a tray baked vegetables, so even long-time frozen or the store-bought challah taste fresh from the oven.

Following is my basic challah recipe.  You can adjust* size, amounts, sweetness etc.  The exact amount of flour depends on the size of the eggs and type of flour used.  I bake with whole-wheat and brown sugar.  You can use white or a combination.  I do find that baked products made of whole-wheat flour taste best with brown sugar.
a kilo (just over 2lbs) of flour, more or less, whole wheat and brown sugar
start with about a 1/2 cup sugar and 3T dehydrated yeast
mix in large bowl
add about 1/4 kilo flour then a pinch of coarse salt
add 1 1/2 cups warm water 6oz soy oil and 3 eggs
mix well and cover
let sit until fermenting
Then gradually add/mix the rest of the flour
until the batter no longer sticks to your hands
then knead for 10 minutes
cover and let rise until double
challah dough after being punched down
punch down and rise again
(take "challah")
shaped, painted and divided

after 2nd rising, bake

then shape, paint with raw egg, let rise, then bake
start with hotter than cake temperature, and when it starts to "brown" lower until less than cake temperature
until bottom "hardens" and if you tap the bottom it sounds "dry"
freshly baked and out of the oven

*If you "google" or check challah recipes in a cookbook, you'll discover that they're all different.  That should give you the confidence to "play" with the recipe and know that almost nothing is "wrong."  I knead by hand, and I don't have strong hands, but the challah still comes out nice and soft. 


Danielle lee said...

Yum! Looks good!

Batya said...

I'd love to have you over, but I guess you're not traveling this far.