Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oh Challah!

When I was in high school, I took two years of Spanish. While I still don't really remember much of anything (I think we're all trying to forget that awful awkward stage in our lives..or at least I am), I do remember one phrase in particular that my Spanish teacher LOVED. According to our textbook (and we all know how accurate language textbooks can be ;) , "Ojala" (con un accento sobre la letra a- maybe I remember a little) means something like, "I wish to God that," or expressing some kind of wish. I was told this phrase all came about after the Moors conquered Spain, and the Isalmic faith brought belief in their god Allah- "Ya Allah" was supposedly where "Ojala" came from.

ANYWAY, the only reason I bored you with that memory of high school is because every time I hear the word "challah" I can't help but think of "Ojala". Challah is a cake-like Jewish bread often eaten on the Sabbath and other holidays. I first heard of challah some years ago when it was called for in a recipe for French toast. I was reading up on its history in the lovely world of Wikipedia (oh how technology has changed our lives), and it is super interesting. However, since they wrote it very well, there is no point in me trying to regurgitate the whole story...I would probably need to plagiarize the whole thing...so..to avoid any legal issues, you can find the history here.

I have been wanting to make challah for years now and finally decided that today was the day. For the most part, the recipe was incredibly easy until it asked to do a four-part braid. After reading the braiding instructions 5 times, I thought it would be better to just try it out. I failed miserably- I think there were a lot of little details left out of the directions that would have helped to clarify. I had Vanessa read it along with me while I braided and neither she nor I could get anything out of it, so I went for the very easy..umm.."normal" braid. The next time I make this bread, I will search for better braiding directions and let you know how it goes.

The bread turned out so plush and cake-like. I can't wait to make a sandwich for lunch tomorrow.

I found my recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking.

Challah
5 t active dry yeast
1 c warm water (105-115F)
1/2 c sugar
3 eggs + 1 for the glaze
5 c flour
2 t salt
1/2 c butter at room temp
1 T poppy seeds

To make the dough with a stand mixer, in the 5-quart bowl of a mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, 3 eggs, 4 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and butter. Place the bowl on the mixer, attach the dough hook and knead on low speed, working in the remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not be tempted to add too much flour. The dough should stay soft and will become less sticky with kneading. Remove the dough from the bowl. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl (I used Pam). Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours. Line a half-sheet pan or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough. Using a plastic pastry scraper, scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface. To make a 3-strand braid, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces with a sharp knife or a bench scraper. Using your palms, and starting in the center and working outward, elongate 1 piece by rolling it gently against the work surface with even pressure until you have formed a rope as long as the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces. Place the braided loaf on the prepared pan, cover with a dry kitchen towel, and let rise again in a warm, draft-free spot until the loaf doubles in size and is spongy to the touch, 45 to 60 minutes. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Brush the braid gently with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the seeds. Bake the braid until it is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Makes 1 large braided loaf.

Mmm...so delicious! I think the forecast for this weekend may call for a French toast of some kind...

Be sure to click on the pictures to get a bigger, better picture..I am going to have to figure out how to fix that..it just looks so much better when the picture is bigger..oh well..

1 love notes:

Mrs. Jacob Moore said...

you're my hero. Whatever!