I love my bread making and just love a challenge. When I was sent a beautiful book from my dear forum friend Francesca. The Secret of Challah by Shira Wiener&Ayelet Yifrach the gauntlet was thrown down. Challah bread is often referred to as 'egg bread' since the recipe usually contains large amounts of eggs. This especially rich bread is eaten on the Sabbath and on all Jewish holidays (with the exception of Passover). Technically, the word 'Challah' isn't the name of the bread at all. The 'Challah' is a small olive sized piece of dough which is separated from the rest of the dough before baking. This is baked and then burnt (representing the destruction of the Temple) and thrown away after a special prayer is said. There are as many recipes of Challah as there are Jewish cooks and cookbooks. Different ethnic traditions call for differences in the recipes. One distinct addition is sprinkling sesame seeds or poppy seeds on the top of the bread before baking (usually after an egg wash, to help the seeds stick). This is supposed to represent the manna which God gave the Israelites to eat while they wandered in the desert. Some people prefer a very sweet bread and will even add raisins to the dough.
I was hesitant about the braiding but I needn't have worried it was quite simple and the book gave very good diagrams of a variety of ways to do this. I chose to braid with four strands.
A lovely rich bread. The recipe stated just flour. I used bread flour but it is my intention to try it with plain/cake/all purpose as I have recently come round to making certain breads with this and have had wonderful results. Some people use half and half I believe.I leave the choice to you. The recipe is for huge quantities. I divided it in four. This gave me one largish loaf. If you like making bread I urge you to try this. It's fun to make and the results are just delicious. It also makes very good French toast.
4 tablespoons dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups boiling water
1/4 cup/150grams margarine (I used butter)
2 tablespoons salt
1 &1/2 cups sugar
14-15 cups of flour
In a small bowl combine yeast 1 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Leave for a few minutes until frothy
Place the margarine/butter in a large bowl, pour the boiling water on top and mix until it has melted.
Add salt and sugar and set aside for a few minutes to cool.
Add the beaten eggs mixing well
Add the yeast mixture then the flour gradually.
If the mixture is too wet add a litle more flour.
Knead by hand for 10 minutes, with dough hook for about 5 minutes and food processor for 1-2 minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl cover with cling film or a towel and leave in a warm place for approx. an hour or until the dough has more or less doubled in volume.
Braid the loaves and place on buttered baking trays, cover and leave in a warm place for approximately one hour to rise again.
Preheat the oven to 180.C/350.F
Brush the loaves with beaten egg,1 teasp sugar and 1 teasp of oil.
Sprinkle with poppy seeds
Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the challah turns golden brown and tap hollow on the bottom
If the bread is browning before it is baked properly make a little foil hat and place over the top.
Cool on a wire rack
Braiding Instructions for a Four Strand Challah
1. Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Knead each part into a smooth ball and roll each ball into a ropelike strand. Lay the strands side by side and pinch together at the top.
2. Grasp the leftmost strand and pass it to the right, under the two strands adjacent to it, and then back toward the left, over one strand (the one closest to it now).
3. Grasp the rightmost strand and pass it to the left, under the two strands adjacent to it (which have already been braided), and then back to the right, over one strand.
4. Alternately repeat steps 2 and 3.
5. When done braiding, pinch the ends of the strands together and tuck under
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