Calling all challah bakers - Mothering Forums
Nutrition and Good Eating > Calling all challah bakers
zinemama's Avatar zinemama 02:30 PM 09-23-2011
I make a darn good challah, if I say so. It tastes great and has that classic challah texture. But my braids lose their definition when I bake them. What goes into the oven as a lovely braid comes out looking like a swollen mummy.

I've tried flouring the strands first and rolling them out on a lightly oiled surface. No dice.

What's the secret of keeping the braid looking braided?

shantimama's Avatar shantimama 02:21 AM 09-26-2011

How tightly do you braid your dough? I would try doing it a few different ways and see what gives you the results you like. If you are braiding very tightly then when the dough does its final rise in the oven there is no room for the dough to expand except to "swell like a mummy." I find tightly braided challah comes out looking very lumpy. I like to braid fairly loosely - no gaps but still fairly loose - and then tightly seal the ends. That give me the best results.

 

The good news is that you have the flavour and texture down - sounds like you just need to play around with your shaping and then you will have the perfect challah!


zinemama's Avatar zinemama 10:41 AM 09-26-2011
Thanks, Shantimama! I think you may have given me the answer, and it makes a lot of sense. I do tend to make my braids tight. I will try a loser braid and see what happens.
beautifulnm's Avatar beautifulnm 11:28 AM 09-26-2011

Can I have your challah recipe? I think I'm prepared for another attempt. My last one looked ok in the oven and then went down like a lead zeppelin. It didn't taste amazing either. Challah envyyyyy.


JenRave's Avatar JenRave 11:46 AM 09-26-2011

*cries*  I am so terrible at baking bread... and since I moved back down south I can't find any challah in stores...

 

And Rosh Hashanah is coming!  I will have to come up with something...


zinemama's Avatar zinemama 02:55 PM 09-26-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by beautifulnm View Post

Can I have your challah recipe? I think I'm prepared for another attempt. My last one looked ok in the oven and then went down like a lead zeppelin. It didn't taste amazing either. Challah envyyyyy.


Here you go:

Delectable Challah

1/3 plus 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs beaten
4-5 cups flour

In the bowl of your stand mixer (if you have one) mix the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and almost all the beaten eggs (reserve some for brushing on the challot before they go in the oven.) Then stir in 1 cup flour. Let this all sit for 10 minutes.

Next, add 3 and a half cups of flour and mix it up. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour until you have a smooth - but still slightly tacky - dough. It really depends on location, weather, etc. how much flour you'll need.

Turn the dough out on a floured counter and knead it until you can stretch a small piece of dough into a translucent "windowpane" that doesn't break.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour. In cold weather I turn the oven to warm for just a minute, then turn it off and let the dough rise in there.

Divide the dough in two. Divide each half in three sections and braid them. Let rise again till puffy. Brush with the reserved egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Turn and bake another 5 minutes. Cool on rack.

Almost every challah recipe I tested back in the day called for something like 35 minutes of baking. This is a mistake! The secret to moist, delicious challah is not to overbake. For this recipe, 20 minutes is perfect.

beautifulnm's Avatar beautifulnm 04:36 PM 09-26-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by JenRave View Post

*cries*  I am so terrible at baking bread... and since I moved back down south I can't find any challah in stores...


That's about as likely as challah in Hawaii. It doesn't exist here except as the picture on the dr. oetker yeast packet.

 


JenRave's Avatar JenRave 12:18 PM 09-27-2011

I just buy nice kosher rolls, usually.  BAD JEW...

 

Cobblestone are nice >.>


zinemama's Avatar zinemama 10:48 AM 11-04-2011
Shantimama, I just wanted to say that your advice was absolutely right! I tried loose braids and - wow! - my challah is not only tasty but gorgeous. Thanks again!

(For anyone using that recipe I posted, I do find that I need to bake them about 3-4 minutes longer now, because they are puffier.)
ollyoxenfree's Avatar ollyoxenfree 09:35 PM 11-19-2011

 

Just wanted to say thanks for the recipe. I've wanted to try it since you posted it and finally tried it today. I followed the recipe exactly as written. The loaves turned out well and everyone is enjoying them. One loaf has almost disappeared already. 

 

For anyone else trying out the recipe, I found that 3 and one half cups of flour was a just little too much to add after the initial 1 cup of flour. My dough was a little too stiff and not at all tacky. Kneading was a challenge. At least I got a workout winky.gif . I think my house is too dry right now with winter, central heating etc. Next time, I'll mix in 3 or maybe 3 and a quarter cups of flour and then add extra as needed. 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zinemama View Post


Here you go:
Delectable Challah
1/3 plus 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs beaten
4-5 cups flour
In the bowl of your stand mixer (if you have one) mix the warm water, sugar, oil, salt and almost all the beaten eggs (reserve some for brushing on the challot before they go in the oven.) Then stir in 1 cup flour. Let this all sit for 10 minutes.
Next, add 3 and a half cups of flour and mix it up. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour until you have a smooth - but still slightly tacky - dough. It really depends on location, weather, etc. how much flour you'll need.
Turn the dough out on a floured counter and knead it until you can stretch a small piece of dough into a translucent "windowpane" that doesn't break.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour. In cold weather I turn the oven to warm for just a minute, then turn it off and let the dough rise in there.
Divide the dough in two. Divide each half in three sections and braid them. Let rise again till puffy. Brush with the reserved egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Turn and bake another 5 minutes. Cool on rack.
Almost every challah recipe I tested back in the day called for something like 35 minutes of baking. This is a mistake! The secret to moist, delicious challah is not to overbake. For this recipe, 20 minutes is perfect.


 

 


shantimama's Avatar shantimama 02:10 PM 11-23-2011

I am so glad it worked for you! How many strands do you braid with?


zinemama's Avatar zinemama 03:01 PM 11-23-2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shantimama View Post

I am so glad it worked for you! How many strands do you braid with?

I do a four-strand braid. I've seen the videos and instructions for the 6 and 8-strand ones, but they make my head hurt.
shantimama's Avatar shantimama 06:31 PM 11-23-2011

I have done 6 and 8 strands and they aren't really that difficult once you dive in but I think the 4 strand braid looks best. And if it looks good, it tastes better, right?


pookahjade's Avatar pookahjade 08:34 PM 11-23-2011

Possibly silly question:  At what point do you add the yeast?? 


shantimama's Avatar shantimama 04:30 AM 11-24-2011

Whenever I bake bread I start by putting a little sugar or honey into the bowl. I add a cup of two of warm water and sprinkle the yeast over it. In a few minutes the yeast has dissolved and become active and I carry on from there.


ollyoxenfree's Avatar ollyoxenfree 10:20 AM 11-24-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by pookahjade View Post

Possibly silly question:  At what point do you add the yeast?? 


Ha, I didn't even notice that there was no instruction for adding the yeast. So much for careful reading! 

 

I added the yeast to the 1/3 cup of warm water in the bowl of my stand mixer and proofed it for a few minutes while I organized the rest of the ingredients. I can't recall if I put in a pinch of sugar to help it along, but I often do. Also, I used traditional active dry yeast, not instant, although I'll bet either would work. 

 

Then I added the other 1/2 cup of the warm water, sugar, oil, salt, and egg and continued with the rest of the recipe.  

 


zinemama's Avatar zinemama 10:21 AM 11-24-2011
Oh, man, I can't believe I forgot to mention the yeast! That first sentence should read: In the bowl of your stand mixer (if you have one) mix the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and almost all the beaten eggs (reserve some for brushing on the challot before they go in the oven.)
pookahjade's Avatar pookahjade 01:06 PM 11-24-2011

Thanks everyone.


Up