Tuesday, September 12, 2006

challah daze

photo: jewish archival

with the holidays so near, i am looking at my millions of recipes for challah. i have one i use, and have used, every year which is really good but i am still going to try something new — an appropriate thing to do for the new year, i would say. at this time of the year challot are round, not braided, and made with honey, a staple of the cooking for rosh hashanah. tradition dictates that all the foods should be sweet, something i welcome every day of the year ;p. nothing says rosh hashanah better than sweet and moist challah dripping with honey. now pass that brisket!

the picture u see here is of hinde amchanitzki [ca. 1901] and her cookbook for newly arrived immigrants to "amerikeh", the title translated as "a learning (text) book for how to cook and bake". amichanitzki's cookbook was the first one written in yiddish in the united states. imagine owning a copy of that? or any first edition cookbooks from "back then" — be they jewish or not. Another note of interest is esther levy's publication called the Jewish Cookery Book, published in Philadelphia in 1871 — a now rare cookbook which demonstrated fine dining through the maintainance of the dietary [kasruth] laws. reprinted copies are available should you be interested. while on the same topic, i will add judith [cohen] montefiore's book, the first jewish one published in english in europe. called The Jewish Manual: Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery with a Collection of Valuable Recipes & Hints Relating to the Toilette, it was published in london in 1846.

edited to add: for a more in depth look at the cookery behind montefiore's & levy's cookbooks, i suggest reading this article.

here is the recipe for the challah i mentioned. more recipes to follow as i find them. i wonder what hinde's recipe looked like.

Challah for the High Holidays (round)
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. cold water
1/8 tsp. saffron, crumbled or ground in mortar [optional]
7 T oil
1/2 c. honey
1 1/2 -2 tsp salt
1 T. yeast - active dry
2 beaten eggs plus one egg yolk

6 1/2 to 7 c. flour (AP), more if needed
1/2 to 3/4 c. raisins (optional)

egg wash:
1 egg yolk, 1 T water
sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds


In large bowl combine:

boiling water and saffron. wait 2 minutes. then add cold water, and honey and mix with whisk. add yeast (make sure water is not too hot) and leave to proof for 10 minutes. whisk. add salt and eggs and mix. add flour until you have a dough which is no longer sticky and knead 10 minutes. you can knead the flour into it in the bowl and then work it on a board after. put it in a greased bowl and cover and let rise 2 hrs. punch down, knead for another 5 minutes or so and let it rise again 1 hr. deflate the dough and let rest 10 minutes. carefully work the raisins in at this point if your using them. divide dough in 2 equal portions. roll out to about 14 inch ropes with one end more tapered than the other. roll into a turban like shape starting with the bigger end and tucking the end just underneath the rolled challah.

preheat oven to 350. and let rest covered for only about 45-50 minutes. glaze with egg wash and sesame/poppy seeds.

bake 45 minutes or until golden brown. cook on rack.
stay tuned for the recipes i am going to test in the future.

update: maggie glezer's challah

as promised, here are the results:

unbaked & proofing:


maggie's recipe uses very little liquids as she states in her book, A Blessing of Bread. this is to have the challah last longer in terms of freshness. she says the higher liquid content in challah recipes make them dry out faster. who ever has challah laying around??!! not in my house!

the challah itself was quite good but not "the best" i've ever made & tasted. i prefer mine on the sweeter side. definitely an 8/10. in terms of a challah for Rosh Hashanah, i recommend increasing the honey content to almost double; you may need a little extra flour to compensate for the increased liquid content.

her recipe is as follows: taken from her book [see above], pg. 94-96; note this is my abridged version. if you want full details, get the book or borrow it.

Maggie Glezer's, "My Challah"
2 tsp instant yeast
3 1/2 c. AP flour
1/4 c. warm water
3 large eggs, 1 extra for glazing
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 vegetable oil
1/4 c. honey


make a yeast slurry: in a bowl, add yeast & 1/4 c. of the flour and the warm water. let proof until puffy, 10 to 20 minutes. add the rest of the ingredients and knead the dough for 10 minutes. at this point u can put the dough in fridge for up to 24 hrs and continue after that. let dough come warm up for 30-60 minutes. if not refrigerated, skip that part and continue to let the dough rise approx. 2 hrs. til doubled. then shape the dough. now, you have a choice. either let it rise for two hours and bake or refrigerate the dough at this point overnight or for up to 24 hrs now to "develop" its flavour. remove from fridge and let rise again loosely covered for 2 to 3 hrs. dough should not feel cold. if you poke the dough the impression should not disappear immediately. about 45 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 325 F. yes, 325 F! i was surprised also but it works. bake the challah for 35 minutes.

you may braid the challah as regularly done, or make the yom tov (holiday) round design or make rolls with a smaller challah.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the challah recipe and good luck on future yeast culturing. I tried to do this back in my undergrad years, and ended up with alo of lies in the kitchen... but I'm sure you'll have better luck!

burekaboy said...

congratulations & mazal tov for being the first to leave me a comment in my new blog. i appreciate your feedback.

the starter is "restarting". the other one seems to have kicked the bucket! this is a new method for me and i am still trying to figure out with the author i am working on this for why it seems to have died. fun science in action.

stay tuned for future developments ;)

Shelliza said...

Yummy! I love Challah Bread, so much that I was on a Challah Bread and Cheese diet while I was pregnant. I would eat 3 loaves a week. Then I wondered why I gained 50 lbs- LOL! I still love it but try to stay away.

burekaboy — said...

shelliza - i make challah weekly for the sabbath. i should probably weigh 500 lbs. that goodness i have a fast metabolism!

i love that diet, challah and cheese! YUM :D