May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.
Okay, that taken care of, this was my first attempt at challah. We were supposed to make it in school, but somehow didn’t get to it. Making the dough itself isn’t much different than making any other enriched bread dough. However, because it’s a traditional Jewish bread, there are certain dietary rules to be kept in mind if you’re keeping your challah true to tradition. This usually means no dairy in the bread. Ruth provided some great information about the history of challah and what the different braids and shapes symbolize. (She also included videos of braiding techniques which I tried to watch, but since my laptop doesn’t seem to like video I finally gave up in frustration.) Of the recipes provided, I went with the Easy Challah mostly because it was a smaller quantity. I do want to try the recipe for Honey White Challah at some point though. It sounds really good and my braiding skills can use a lot more practice.
|rosemary-parmesan spiraled challah|
Even with the smaller yield, the Easy Challah recipe made two loaves. Another Daring Baker, Hannah G, of Rise and Shine! made a beautiful (blueberry cheesecake!) spiraled challah that sort of looked like a huge cinnamon roll. I knew that one of my loaves would be shaped like that. By now, anyone who has read this blog more than once probably knows my husband does not like things sweet. So to counter some of the sweetness of one of the challah loaves, I included some fresh rosemary and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. After I rolled the dough into a rope, I flattened in out, sprinkled on the rosemary and cheese, sealed it, rolled it up and crossed my fingers that the seam wouldn’t burst as it was proofing. Part of it did, but I managed to repair it.
|traditional challah in a six-strand braid|
The second loaf I kept more traditional. I didn’t add anything and shaped it into a six-strand braid. Ruth recommended practicing braiding with something like clay, but I didn’t really have anything with which to practice. As I mentioned previously, I was having trouble with the video and just gave up on it. That left me trying to do the six-strand braid, without practice, from an illustration in my baking textbook. It seemed fairly straightforward at first – but then I got to the end of the steps and had to repeat them. For the life of me, it just did not seem right! I started, re-started and started the braid yet again. Once I finally gave in and just went with it (despite the fact it didn’t make sense to me), it worked out and I found a rhythm to the braiding. However, the beginning of my braided loaf was definitely on the chewy side from being over handled. I took some step-by-step photos of the braiding process, but I think watching Ruth's videos would probably be better.
I loved learning the braiding technique, and in the future would like to try some of the other braids as well. There were also some other recipes for challah that I would like to try, especially a sourdough challah mentioned by Daring Baker Korena. With some perfection in technique, I think challah will be a great bread to make and give with some of my homemade jams and jellies. Friends beware!
For the recipes and information on challah, visit the Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive.