Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Overnight Challah

In general, I'm not a huge fan of enriched doughs, but I do love Challah. When I was a kid, most of my friends were Jewish so I went to about 52 barmitzvahs and batmitzvahs over the course of 2.5 years. While I enjoyed parts of the ceremonies, I often looked forward to grabbing a piece of challah afterward.

Challah also was one of the first breads that I made back in my early days of bread baking at school. It was the first no-knead bread I ever baked. Most importantly, it was the first successful bread that I made upon returning home after graduation after a series of incredibly disappointing failures. Mostly out of nostalgia, I have always used this recipe, which was the first one I found. However, I decided to try Peter Reinhart's recipe from Artisan Breads Every Day. Except I couldn't help myself-- I had to modify the recipe (quite substantially).

Challah from Artisan Breads Every Day (significantly adapted)
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves
  • 130g lukewarm water (about 95 degrees F)
  • 1/2 tablespoon + a pinch dry active yeast (approximately 5g)
  • 4-5 egg yokes (85g) Instead, I used 2 egg yokes and 1 egg. However, had I read the recipe notes, I should have realized that I needed to reduce the amount of water. I didn't so I ended up incorporating a lot more flour. If you want to use whole eggs, reduce the water by about 28g per egg. So in reality, I should have used 2 egg yokes and 2 eggs with 74g water
  • 2.5 tablespoons vegetable oil (35g)
  • 2.25 tablespoons honey (43g)
  • 357g bread flour
  • 250g white sourdough starter, 100% hydration
  • 1.25 teaspoons salt (9.5g)
  • 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons water for egg wash
Day 1:
  • Combine the dry active yeast and the water in a mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to dissolve.
  • Add egg yokes (or eggs or both), oil, and honey. Stir to break up the egg yokes.
  • Add in the sourdough starter, the flour, and the salt and then mix. In a mixer, mix for about 2 minutes on the lowest speed. By hand, mix with a dough whisk or a wooden spoon for a minuter or two until you form a course, shaggy dough.
  • Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  • If using a mixer, switch to a dough hook for about 4 minutes on medium-low speed. Or, mix by hand or with a wooden spoon for about 4 minutes. Make sure your hands or the spoon are wet.
  • Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes, or until it passes the windowpane test. Incorporate as much flour as needed to make the dough tacky but not sticky.
  • Then, let the dough sit out for about half an hour. It should rise just a little bit. Then put it in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 2 days.
Day 2
  •  Remove the dough for the refrigerator 2h10 before baking.
  • Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut it into the desired number of pieces. Challah loaves are traditionally braided so if you are making 2 small loaves, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. 
  • Roll the pieces into ropes. The length depends on your own aesthetic, although you want all of the pieces to be the same length. Consider that the bread will increase about 1.5-2 times in size, so don't roll your ropes too thin or too thick.
  • Braid the loaves. Braid out from the middle toward each side. This will ensure the proper tapering of your loaves.
  • Let the loaves rise, covered, for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (300 degrees F convection) about 15 minutes before the bread is ready to go in the oven.
  • Brush the loaves with egg wash and sprinkle seeds if desired. You can then either load them onto a pan or a peel to be baked on a stone.
  • Bake for 35-50 minutes, until the internal temperature is 190 degrees F and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped. If you want, you can steam for the first 20 minutes, but it's probably unnecessary. I will steam one and not steam the other so I can demonstrate the difference.
I haven't finished this project. The loaves will come out of the oven tomorrow so I will post pictures then.

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