Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Challah - three versions

This post is really overdue. We Joey made two types of challah for Rosh Hashanah, and they were amazing. He decided he wanted to make challah again over the weekend, mostly so we could use it to make a baked french toast (recipe coming).

For Rosh Hashanah, the focus was obviously on apples and honey. The challah itself has a lot of honey in it. We put apples in one of the loaves, and rum soaked raisins in the other. Last weekend, we did one with the rum soaked raisins, and one plain. He also experimented with several different methods of braiding.

Here is the main recipe, with notes at the bottom on how to make the apple and raisin variations.

Recipe: Honey Challah, Three Ways
Slightly adapted from: Shiksa in the Kitchen
Yield: 2 loaves

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, divided
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup honey
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp salt
5-7 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup of the warm water (about 110 F) in a large mixing bowl. Wait 10 minutes, or until it expands and looks foamy.

Once yeast is activated, add remaining water, egg, egg yolks, honey, oil, vanilla and salt. Whisk until everything is thoroughly combined.

Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, using a large wooden spoon to mix. Once mixture is too thick to stir, start using your hands (warning - you'll get messy). Continue to add flour and mix until you get a smooth and elastic dough ball that isn't too sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times.

Put the dough back into a large lightly greased bowl (you can wash out the bowl you just mixed it in and use that), and turn it so all sides are coated. Cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel. In the oven (that is turned off!), put the bowl with the dough on the top rack, and a pan of boiling water on the bottom rack. Close the oven door (and do not turn it on!) and let it rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, punch the dough down to remove air pockets, and then put it back in the oven for another hour. The dough should double in size during this last rise.

Lightly flour a large surface, and put out half of the dough. Keep the other half of the dough in the bowl, covered by the towel. Cut the half that you have out into 3 equal portions. Roll each one until they are 16-18 inches long with tapered ends. Connect the three ends together, and braid as you would braid your hair - outside strands over the middle strand. Once you reach the end, connect the ends together.

Once the loaf has been braided, place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and let the loaf rise for 30-45 minutes longer, or until slightly puffy. (At this point, you can make the second loaf.)

Prepare egg wash by mixing egg with water and salt until all combined. Lightly brush the loaf with the egg wash, and bake for 20 minutes. Take the loaf out of the oven, and re-brush with the egg wash, making sure to get the newly exposed parts of the bread. Put back into the oven for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190-200 F. Let it cool slightly before slicing (or ripping off pieces).

Apple Variation:
When the dough is in the second rise, chop 3 large apples. If desired, mix with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon, although this may make the dough a bit soggy. With each half of the dough, divide into 4 equal portions instead of 3. Stretch each portion into a rough rectangle - about 16 inches long, and 3 inches wide. Put some of the apples into the center of the rectangle, leaving about a 1/2 inch border. Don't transfer any of the liquid from the bottom of a bowl. Gently roll the upper edge of the rectangle toward the lower edge, and pinch to seal. Gently roll it out so it is smooth, with tapered ends. Repeat with three remaining portions. Follow these instructions for braiding. The rest of the instructions are the same, however it might take a bit longer to cook because of the apples inside. Repeat with the second loaf. You can also top with cinnamon sugar after adding the egg wash, before baking, but this makes it a bit messy to cut.

Raisin Variation:
While the dough is in the second rise, mix together 2 cups raisins with 1/2 cup spiced rum in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture starts boiling. Stir together, then cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Drain before using, then add to the 4 dough portions in the same method as the apples.

Round braided loaf with raisins inside

Regular braided loaf - plain

You can see the swirls of raisins!

Our lovely friend, being silly with the challah :)

The Rosh Hashanah loaves - raisin on the left, apple on the right
The raisin challah on the left was braided with the circle method shown here

Two loaves = 1