Sunday, December 23, 2007

You don't have to Challah!

Or do you? After last week's adventure with yeast (Soft Pretzels), I was game for the next yeasty challenge.

Did you know that the term challah isn't actually the loaf of bread that we associate it with? The word challah actually refers to a small piece of dough (about one-tenth of the total amount of diuhg) that is removed prior to shaping your loaf. A blessing is said over the dough and that small ball of dough is then discarded or burnt in the oven that the bread will bake in. In biblical times, the small ball of dough was given as a tac to the Jewish priesthood. (Thank you WIki, for clarifying all this for me!)

I found this recipe in The New York Times Jewish Cookbook. This cookbook has several challah recipes, I settled on a rather unconventional one: Bejma (Tunisian Triangular Challah). It wasn't my first choice, but one recipe needed 8 hours to rise (who has that kind of time?), the other called for way too much sugar, and the third one's instructions were 2 whole pages long. So I opted for the Bejma,which really didn't seem much different from the others. Flour, eggs, yeast, salt, sugar, oil..... they all had the same ingredients.

Final result: a little dense. Challah should be light and airy...and slightly sweet. I halved this recipe and made two loaves out of the dough. One as a traditional bejma, and the 2nd a traditional Jewish braided loaf. The bejma was actually denser than the braid, probably because the balls are thicker than the strands in the braid. Next tme I'll try one of the other recipes my cookbook ahs to offer, but this bread certainly won't go to waste. French toast, anyone?

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
7 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoons of the sugar in 1 cup of the water in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir into the yeast mixture 3 of the eggs, oil, salt, and the remaining water and sugar. Slowly knead in enough flour to make a soft, tacky dough. Using your hands or a dough hook on the mixer, knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, place in a greased bowl, and let rise, covered, for 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 9 rounds about the size of tennis balls. Place 3 rounds together on a greased cookie sheet, touching, to form a triangle. Repeat with remaining dough. Let rise, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beat the remaining egg with a little water and brush the dough. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and loaves sound hollow.

Yields 3 loaves (8 servings per loaf)

WW info: 3 points per slice.

1 comment:

MrsPresley said...

sorry it didn't turn out as you had hoped, but it sure is beautiful!