Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hating this Challah already (but liking it a bit, too)

potto bread 009Why did I decide to make a NEW challah for Yom Tov? Am I asking for problems???

This is Aliza Sussman’s challah, the second-prize winner in the ChallahCrumbs.com challah contest.

To begin with, the recipe reads weirdly: I had no clue what Shtybel #2 flour is (Israeli bread flour, as it turns out), or how much was in “2 bags” (2kg). Then, she also asks for “1 pack of fresh yeast”… umm, how much is in a pack? (50g, which seems like a LOT for the proportions here)

Finally, she says, “Add the ingredients one at a time and mix by hand after each ingredient is added.” Mix by hand after adding four eggs to over 2kg of dry ingredients?? That is a LOT of work. The water called for is only “1 ½ - 2 cups of warm water,” with the comment “want good consistency.” Gee, thanks.

I shouldn’t have taken it on, and definitely shouldn’t have dived in no questions asked. Actually, I did ask a few of these questions in the comments field below the recipe, but they have since been deleted from the page. I hate when sites delete your comments.

I ended up needing a full 3 cups of water even to get it kneadable. And then I had to divide the HUGE, unmanageable blob into quarters and run them through the food processor individually. Finally, I kneaded the thing back into some semblance of togetherness… but not really, because by then, my hands were exhausted.

You can see my hand in the photo, above, drooping from the exhaustion of trying to knead this HUGE unsatisfying dough. I’m going to let the thing rest overnight and see if it’s better-natured in the morning. :-(

Going to bed:

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Morning update!

… and out of the fridge!

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I started working this dough when it was cold & grouchy as anything! But a little oil on the strands and a little warmth really got them working quite nicely.

Blop! Out onto the table.

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Roll into flat circles, then roll up into “sausages.” This is the Maggie Glezer way to make the snakes for braiding.

Multiply by twenty strands – 4 x 5 challahs. After taking challah, this recipe divided pretty evenly into five 700g challahs (I find 1.5 lbs works okay for us on Yom Tov, and yes, it’s weird that I think in pounds, but there you go), so each snake is about 175g.

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Five challahs, all braided and ready to rise!

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Cover with plastic wrap and wait while the potato bread bakes…

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Fully risen; ready to bake.

finished 002

35 minutes later…

finished 005

If these taste as delicious as they look, perhaps I will change my mind about this recipe!!!

After Yom Tov Postscript:

Yup, I changed my mind - kind of! They were SOooo sweet and cakey and yummy. Of course, the "cakeyness" meant that when I took one to a Sefardi family for lunch yesterday, they couldn't use it as the main challah for the meal - if the dough is too enriched, apparently they can't use it for challah.

I am still irritated at what I can only assume is an inaccuracy in the measurement of water for the recipe. A full cup can't be accounted for just with local variations in flour, can it? And I felt the loaves were average-sized, but definitely needed at least another 10-15 minutes to bake - and that was on a fully heated baking stone.

Still, they shaped well, and everybody seemed to enjoy their rich sweetness. So I might choose to make this recipe again, for a special occasion. This sugary challah is definitely not everyday fare - and probably not even every-Shabbos fare, but perhaps a nice (if slightly difficult to make) once-in-a-while treat.

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