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Jennifer’s Reliable Challah

erev Rosh Hashanah 2009-09-16 004Forgot to take pictures before cutting into this challah. This was the one I made for the kids’ challah-making last Wednesday, but it was also a test run of the recipe I used for the entire Yom Tov.

The main difference from what I usually do is that instead of 5 cups of wheat flour, I used one cup of stone-ground spelt (courtesy of my baker sister, who gave me a free sample!), plus two cups of bread flour and two cups of all-purpose.

erev Rosh Hashanah 2009-09-16 001It was delicious, and I’m constantly amazed at how the spelt makes the bread so soft and lovely. Not at all like whole wheat, which I don’t usually enjoy in a Shabbos or Yom Tov bread. The spelt does give a bit of an unfortunate grey cast to the bread (not as much as barley, though!).

I like to think that when people see it coming, they kind of brace themselves for “healthy”-tasting bread, and are then pleasantly surprised when it is so soft and cakey!

In this picture it looks a bit too damp and soggy in the middle, but that’s probably because I cut it when it was still extremely hot. If I’d left it, it probably would have been fine (as were the rest over Yom Tov).

Jennifer’s Reliable Challah Recipe

The DRY stuff:

5 cups flour – all-purpose or mix of whole wheat (not more than 50%) and/or bread flour

¼ cup sugar (up to 1/3 to make it sweet and special)

1 ½ tbsp salt 

(CAUTION:  a friend says hers was too salty; I will weigh this out again, but meanwhile, try 1 tbsp!)

1 tbsp yeast (Instant – avoid “Traditional”)

¼ cup “spare” flour – just in case!

3 tbsp “dusting” flour

The WET stuff:

1/3 cup oil

1 2/3 cups water – you will probably not need all of the water!

1. Add oil and water to 2-cup measure. Set aside so oil will rise to the top.

2. Sprinkle dusting flour into a large non-zip freezer bag. Close bag top, with air inside (it’ll look like a balloon), and shake flour around to coat inside of bag.

3. Add dry ingredients to food processor and process with steel blade to combine.

4. With food processor running, slowly pour oil/water mixture through tube into dry ingredients (oil will pour first, ensuring that it all gets mixed in – you probably won’t need all the water).

5. Continue pouring slowly until mixture pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a “ball” that moves around the machine in one clump.

6. Continue processing for 30-45 seconds. One of two things may happen:

a. Mixture gets gloppy & starts sticking to sides again – add a sprinkling of flour!

b. Mixture gets crumbly and doesn’t stick together anymore – slowly add a bit more water.

7. Turn off food processor after 30-45 seconds, or 15 seconds after the most recent addition.

8. Dump dough into prepared non-zip freezer bag, knot top and set aside to rise (2-8 hours). OR rest in fridge overnight or longer, then bring to room temperature for 1-2 hours before continuing.

Now it’s risen!

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. The longer it’s hot before bread goes in, the better.

2. On floured table, gently divide dough into portions – ie, how many loaves do you want? – do not knead it!

3. Shape each portion into a “loaf”. Here’s where you get to be creative! Braid it or whatever!

4. Set finished loaves on parchment paper in tinfoil or regular pan.

5. Spray each finished loaf with oil, cover with plastic, and let rise (1-2 hours).

6. Brush loaves with beaten egg if desired.

7. Sprinkle with: poppy, sesame, streusel*, whatever!

8. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Thick loaves may require a few minutes longer; using oven mitts, pick up the loaf after 30 minutes and check that the bottom is firm, dry and brown. It should make a hollow “echo” sound when tapped with knuckles.

9. Remove from pan as soon as it’s cool enough to handle and cool on a rack (or upside-down if you don’t want to find a rack) so the bottom doesn’t get soggy.

* Streusel topping: ½ cup flour, ½ cup sugar, add oil and mix until crumbly. Add cinnamon if desired. I know this isn’t REAL streusel, but in my opinion, if it looks like streusel and tastes like streusel, it IS streusel. All my guests seem to agree.

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