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Argh! Flour? And a total Challah revamp!

Okay, I’m stuck.  It’s Thursday night, and I’m supposed to be making challah, but HOW?  I am stuck on the most basic of basics:  how to measure flour.

I had an astonishing insight:  rather than rely on various sites’ guidelines for how much all-purpose flour is supposed to weigh, I can simply weigh my own and average it out.

Well.

Ten scoops later, it turns out my flour averages a little less than 150g per cup.  Which is very nice and interesting, except then I realized that I’m weighing the bottom of the bag, which is more compressed than the top.

So then I weighed the “fluffed-out” flour that I had weighed previously.  Well, so that stuff only weighs around 135g – almost a full 15g less per cup! 

(and since we’re aiming for a challah recipe which calls for 12-13 cups of flour, that discrepancy could mean a full cup, more or less)

Just to totally confuse me, the unit-conversion site I’ve been using for baking recipes, the one I was so excited about when I first posted the link here, says a cup of flour weighs only 99.3 g.  Sheesh!

Anyway, it seems that despite my problems with bread this week, the Artisan Bread in 5 folks are probably more or less accurate at estimating 5 ounces per cup – around 141.7g; somewhere in between my “bottom of the bag” and “fluffed-out” averages.

So I’m going to try subbing this quantity into a new recipe.  In looking for a recipe, I decided the main criteria for me are MOISTNESS and KEEPING POWER.  I cannot stand most challahs the second day – ie for Shabbos lunch.

For some reason, I usually end up enjoying water challahs more, but everybody insists that eggs give the bread more staying power, so I am going to try another egg-based challah. 

I am re-reading Alton Brown’s baking book, and was hoping it would give some insight into challah, but in fact, I am finding it less than illuminating in the breads department, and I am not at all interested in making muffins, cakes, etc., so … no go.

I also considered Rose Levy Beranbaum’s challah, but don’t have any sourdough starter ready to go at the moment.  I may dig some out to try for next week, because she says the sourdough gives it lots of moisture.  Intriguing!

So here it is, after a long, careful selection process.  This week’s contender is… an anonymous “Shabbat Challah” recipe at Allrecipes, which has the advantage of almost 46 rave reviews and many comments along the lines that it is quite moist.

(along, I’m sure, with the two or three usual low-rating morons who say, “I divided the recipe in half, took out all the gluten, subbed sucralose for the honey, threw in some rancid sunflower seeds and baked it for an hour and a half and I just have to say this was THE WORST BREAD I’VE EVER TASTED.”)

I’ll be sure to keep ya posted!

Oh… just for my own reference, here’s Allrecipes’ metric conversion of the original recipe, which was in cups and whatnot.  This is what I’m going to be following (with comments and corrections as noted).  However, Allrecipes uses a weight of only 125g per cup of flour, so I’ll be sticking with the 141.75 (5oz) of AB5 until proven otherwise.

The New Challah
  • 35 g active dry yeast  (3 tbsp) => I used 30g; my yeast seems to weigh 10g/tbsp
  • 950 ml warm water (4 cups)
  • 35 g salt  (2 tbsp) => I used 45g; my kosher salt seems to weigh 15g/tbsp, and I like a bit more salt)
  • 100 g white sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 235 ml vegetable oil (1 cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1700 g all-purpose flour (Allrecipes converted this as 1200g, but I stuck with 1700g, and the consistency looks good so far)

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