May 19, 2014
A “Mouse” Ate the Challah
I don’t go in to the bakery on Fridays. By no means does this mean that I sit around on the couch eating bonbons and watching all of the TV that has built up on my DVR. (I wish.) Instead, I start the day praying for clear weather; sneak in a shower (maybe); inhale at least two cups of coffee (non-negotiable); get the two older kids out the door to school; do a blitzkrieg clean up of the apartment with an emphasis on bed-making, laundry-collecting, bedroom-neatening, and kitchen-clearing (all futile); after which I scoop #3 into the stroller, and head out the door. The mission: get an entire week’s worth of household errands done by 1:00. At which point I pick #1 and #2 up from school, they storm the apartment, and all of the bed-making, laundry-collecting, and bedroom-neatening is promptly undone. Once the groceries are unpacked and I start dinner, the destruction is complete.
A very important part of my Friday ritual is the baking of the weekly loaves of challah, the traditional braided bread served on the Jewish Sabbath. My kids have all been involved in the weekly bake-off since before they were school-aged, and whoever happens to be home on Friday morning eagerly drags a chair to the kitchen counter ready to get dirty and lend a “helping” hand. By mid-afternoon, the challah is out of the oven and is cooling on the dining room table.
This week, however, there was a little twist to the story. When my husband came home and surveyed the usual hairline balance between pre-Sabbath order and chaos, he noticed one detail that I had overlooked. “Love, what happened to the other side of the challah?!”
It turns out that a certain three-year-old “helper” couldn’t wait until dinner.
Over the years, I have gone through many recipes, methods, and ingredients, tweaking and adjusting, substituting and swapping, until finally, by general consensus, I hit the jackpot. In our family, we finish our challah with sesame seeds, but feel free to use the garnish of your choice. (I have a good friend who takes out the chocolate chips, cinnamon-sugar, and sprinkles and tells the kids to go crazy!)
To make raisin challah, add 100-200 grams (⅔-1⅓ cups) raisins to the mixer after the flour is well incorporated.
- 1 envelope (7 grams /2¼ tsp) Active Dry Yeast
- 500 grams (3¾ cup) Bread Flour, Divided, plus additional as needed
- ¾ cup warm water, ~110° F
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 extra large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
- ½ cup (4 oz) vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp (10 grams) sea salt
- 55 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
- Poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc. for garnish (optional)
- For the sponge: Whisk yeast, 100 grams (¾ cup) flour, warm water , and honey together in the bowl of a standing mixer. Let stand 15 minutes until it begins to puff up and bubbles begin to appear on the surface.
- Add the Wet Ingredients: Add 2 eggs, oil, salt and sugar into the sponge and whisk together until well incorporated.
- Knead the Dough: Attach the dough hook to the mixer and add the remaining 400 grams of flour to the bowl. Run the mixer on low speed until all the flour is incorporated, adding more flour as needed until the dough neatly comes away from the sides of the bowl.* Allow the mixer to run for several minutes to work the dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead several times by hand until the dough is nice and elastic and forms a ball.
- Ferment the Dough: Place the dough in a clean, well-oiled bowl, and turn the dough several times to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise, undisturbed, until it has at least doubled in volume, about 3 hours.
- Shape and Proof the dough: Gently deflate the dough with your fingertips and turn out onto a clean surface. Divide into two halves. Divide each half into three pieces, roll into ropes and braid. ** Place braided challahs on parchment lined baking sheets, cover with clean towels, and allow to rise until tripled in size, about 1½-2 hours.
- Prepping the Loaves: Preheat oven to 350° F. Beat the remaining egg with a little bit of water to create an egg wash. brush the loaves with the glaze, and sprinkle with the garnish of your choice.
- Baking the loaves: Bake 30-35 minutes.
* If desired, add raisins here
* * At this point, braided dough can be well-wrapped in plastic and frozen for future use. Take out in the morning, unwrap, place on parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a clean towel, and alllow to defrost/rise for 6 hours. Bake as above.