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Challah, from far away

>> Monday, May 17, 2010

Challah 1

Though the English-speaking blogosphere is packed with Challah recipes, this word is quite unknown in Spain. All ethnicities and nationalities with communities of a certain importance in the United States enjoy an amplification and diffusion in the rest of the world of all their characteristics and peculiarities that for example we Spaniards do not enjoy. When we were compelled to emigrate, we had a lot of Spanish-speaking countries to go to, instead of heading for the United States, like Italians, Germans, Swedes, Irish, Russians, Poles, etc. And now our cuisine is not as widely known as theirs.


It's funny how in almost all the books where I have the recipe for challah (see here its pronunciation, I mean hear it), the name is written in the form challah. I guess that's the spelling in Yiddish and German. But in Spanish we would pronounce that starting with a sound like in the Italian word ciao, for example. I have a book in Spanish in which it is correctly transcribed, jalá, which leads me to worship the translator... I like that book, New Jewish Cooking by Elizabeth Wolf Cohen. Although the recipe I used here is not from this book, but from a baking course on festive breads. Are you yawning yet? Good. This is my method for screening my readers. Only the chosen ones will get to the bottom of the chasm of knowledge...

Challah 5

When I brought home my first challah from my baking course, my youngest son liked it a lot, so with the happy occasion of his birthday today, I decided to bake him a challah, because he doesn't like cakes... And also because challah is delicious. Here it is:

Challah, Shabbath's bread (recipe by Paul Merry)
Yields 2 biggish plaited breads

  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 270ml water
  • 700g bread flour (I used 500g spelt and 200g Manitoba flour)
  • 10g salt
  • 12g fresh yeast
  • 2 tbsp agave syrup (the original recipe calls for honey instead)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 80g softened butter, at ambient
  • Poppy seeds
  • 1 aditional egg for brushing
Challah 3
  1. Lightly toast the saffron to boost its flavour. I put the threads on a little piece of aluminum foil and heat it with a lighter. Put half the water in a bowl, heat it in the microwave and leave the saffron to infuse. Let cool.
  2. In the meantime mix the liquid ingredients. Add the cooled saffron mixture to the rest of the liquid (substract the infusion water from the total), then add all the solids except the butter and the poppy seeds.
  3. Knead well until gluten begins to develop, around 10 minutes. Then add the softened butter in small pieces and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and supple, but not too soft. Make a ball, place it on an oiled bowl, cover and let it double in bulk, from 1 hour to 1.5 hours.
  4. When doubled, punch it to degas. Leave it in the same container to continue the fermentation till almost double again, at least another hour. Once fermented for the second time, tip the dough on the countertop, degas again and try to shape it into a flat rectangle. Cut the rectangle into two equal parts (you can weigh the portions, but I'm a primitive person without scale), then roll each portion into a cylinder and divide into three pieces, to make the strands of the plait. Each portion is shaped into a long thread, about two fingers thick. Leave the stretched strands to rest a couple of minutes on the counter for the dough to relax.
  5. The next step is to make the plait. What, you don't know how to make a plait? Shame on you. Here's an instructional video. The braid should be initiated at the center, progressing to one end. Then flip the bread and make the other end of the braid. The center should be thicker than the ends. Try not to overtight the crosses, better let the braid a little loose, because it needs space to rise. It's a good idea to make the braid on a well floured baking sheet so that you don't need to transfer it later.
  6. Make a glaze with one egg yolk and a little water (the remaining egg white can be frozen). Brush both braids, trying not to let much egg flow between the strands, so that it doesn't act as glue. You can brush them a second time after a few minutes. After the final glaze, sprinkle poppy seeds on the loafs and allow them to rise a third time. They will take less than an hour, so turn on the oven to 190ºC immediately.
  7. When properly risen, put the loafs into the oven. In my oven they took something in between 20 and 25 minutes to bake. To test for doneness, press the sides near the base, and if the bread springs back, they are ready. Handle them with great care not to break them and leave to cool on rack.
Challah 4

I think less yeast can be used, 10g or less may be more than sufficient. The neatness in making the strands is important for the outcome. The first loaf (which is not in the photos, uh-huh) looked worse, because all the strands rose to almost fuse with each other. The second loaf was much better looking, although the center burst to some extent. I have to improve my braiding technique. I'm willing to bake all the challah loafs that may be required. And some more. Yum.

Challah 2

I guess you know it keeps very well inside a plastic bag, but if you don't find it as good as freshly made, you can always slice it and toast it. It is delicious spread with butter. And as French toast...

This challah goes to Susan's Yeastspotting!

17 comentarios:

Bellini Valli May 18, 2010 at 6:44 PM  

First of all happy birthday to your son:D My daughter also does not really enjoy cake so usually we have either Turtle Cheesecake or ice cream cake:D

Kiki May 18, 2010 at 6:50 PM  

Wow! Can I have soup with that please :D

Belinda @zomppa May 18, 2010 at 8:57 PM  

Lovely, lovely. I can almost hear the sound of the bread...happy birthday!!

Janice May 18, 2010 at 10:45 PM  

Fabulous photographs, it looks delicous.

Simply Life May 19, 2010 at 1:08 AM  

wow, that looks picture-perfect!

All Our Fingers in the Pie May 19, 2010 at 1:36 AM  

This is beautiful. I have always wanted to make challah.

penny aka jeroxie May 19, 2010 at 2:07 AM  

Oh! Happy birthday to your son. And this is a good looking loaf of bread.

Carol Egbert May 19, 2010 at 3:33 AM  

The bread is a beautiful color. It would be lovely with jam and butter.

tasteofbeirut May 19, 2010 at 3:37 AM  

Your challah looks fantastic; I have never tried to make it but I love to eat it big time!

fromBAtoParis May 19, 2010 at 8:05 AM  

Primero, feliz cumple atrasado para tu hijo...y estoy de acuerdo con él...yo preferiria comer eso a cualquier torta....y digo "eso" porque no sé donde he vivido todos estos anios, pero yo nunca habia escuchado ese nombre....bueno, me mandas unos gramos de Jabugo y me hago el mejor festin !!! bueno, ya que estas, un Rioja para completar, me vendria bien !!!!!

Emily Malloy (Ziegler) May 19, 2010 at 4:24 PM  

Absolutley GORGEOUS challah! Kudos!

Seattle DUI Defense lawyer May 19, 2010 at 9:43 PM  

Wonderful bread. Thanks for the recipe.

denise @ quickies on the dinner table May 20, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

I am late for your son's birthday but I hope he had a good one :)

That challah is just beautiful, there is no other word for it!

Pacheco Patty May 21, 2010 at 6:57 AM  

Beautiful challah, congratulations on baking such a great looking and I'm sure tasting bread!

Mimi May 21, 2010 at 5:54 PM  

I am one of the chosen ones? lol!! It was worth it, great loaf of challah!!

Miriam May 24, 2010 at 1:29 PM  

Val: thanks! Turtle cheesecake! Yum!
Kiki: ooow, good idea...
Belinda: thanks!
Janice: thank you!
SL: thanks!
AOFP: it's not that difficult and it's yummy!
Penny: thanks!
Carol: it was... ahem.
ToB: thanks!
Cristina: jaja, gracias. Cualquier cosa con jabugo es mucho más rica!
Emily: thank you!
Lawyer: thanks!
Denise: well, he had 3 parties in a row, I believe he can't complain, haha.
Patty: thanks!
Mimi: sure... haha.

My Little Space May 24, 2010 at 5:25 PM  

What a great day to celebrate it with...Challah bread! Beautiful photos! Hope you'll have a wonderful day.
Cheers, kristy

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