Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recipes Revisited: Challah For the New Year

I have begun something I am thinking of as the "Daily Bread" project.

Not that I am going to bake bread every day-we don't eat that much of it.  But the girls take sandwiches to school regularly and I'd like to make the bread for that. I've already succeeded in making a soft white bread that my fusspot JR will eat, and the next step is to make a white wheat version she'll like.

Most of the breads I'm making are coming via this book. I had tried Jim Lahey's  no-knead bread but found it difficult to work with and now worth it. But the bread dough here is easy to make, work with and store and I'm becoming addicted to using it.

But love this book as much as I do--and I do--I am still making my traditional challah, the same challah that I have made since I was about 16.

I do employ one method used by Hertberg and Francois--I often only use part of the dough, either as rolls or a braided loaf of bread and put the other part in my fridge for later use. The dough can easily sit for 2-3 days. I don't tend to keep it there longer because it can take on a kind of wine-like smell. Probably fine for baking, but I wouldn't guarantee the flavor will be the same.

It bakes up easily as rolls in muffin tins and that makes it easy for the girls to grab a roll for breakfast, or for me to bring a batch to share at work. If you want instructions on how to braid it, there should be a batch of how-to videos on YouTube, but if you've ever braided hair, you know how.  I have recently realized that if I start the braid at one end, then flip the dough over to do the other I get a better looking braid, but truthfully, this looks good no matter how you braid it!

A round loaf is traditional at the Jewish New Year, for the circle of the year, but I just do the rolls instead. And you can use sugar in this bread, but I prefer honey. It's also more traditional, especially at Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, when honey is part of the foods observant Jews include to bring in a sweet New Year. 

And honey tastes good on this bread, no matter what time of the year!

Note: You can make this in a mixer or a bread machine, but it's so easy to knead that I don't bother with the mixer. And I'm about to give away my bread machine!

Combine in a large bowl:
1  3/4 cups hot water (NOT boiling--it will kill your yeast!)
2 Tbsp yeast
4 Tsp  salt
3/4 cup honey
Then stir in:
2 cups of all purpose or bread flour

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups oil (canola or corn)

Mix well and start adding:
4-6 more cups of flour

Add flour, stirring to mix it in. As you mix it, you may have to stop stirring it and start kneading it.
You can do this right in the bowl. Add flour, kneading until the dough stops sticking to your fingers. The final amount of flour depends on a lot of things, and can range from 4-7 cups, so don't panic if you need a lot. The final dough is moist--not dry--and spongy, a pleasure to knead.

Apply some oil to the dough with your fingers, turning it over to coat it. You can rise it right in the bowl, but if you want to put it in the fridge and use it later a gallon sized freezer bag or a large plastic container will work just fine.

For immediate use:
Let the dough rise one hour, or until doubled. When you push fully risen dough down gently, it will reinflate promptly.

Divide the dough in half. Divide each half into 3 pieces and braid them.
Place loaves on parchment paper covered or greased cookie sheets and let rise another 1/2 hour or so.

Brush with beaten egg wash.
Beat an egg with a small amount of water in a cup or dish. You can keep this in a jar or covered container for a few days in the fridge if you are making bread again.

Bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F

For rolls:
After hour rising, place small balls of dough into sections of a greased muffin tin and let rise for another 1/2 hour or so.  Glaze with egg wash and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

For later use: I often just shape the rolls and bake them without additional resting time. Allow another 5-10 minutes since they are coming cold from the fridge.

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