May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from the Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over and tips from “A Taste of Challah” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.
Well…..I had never made challah before. I chose to try the Challah Honey White. It’s good. But just so you know…..its sticky.
What I mean is that the dough is more tacky than that of some other breads. The stickiness kinda surprised me at first. I thought I had measured incorrectly (still a possibility, cause I think I may have done a poor job of measuring the water). And I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the part in the directions that read “Add flour as needed.” Well, the meaning is obvious. But without a description of when, how much, or what consistency to look for, I felt a little insecure in my efforts to put this dough together. I ended up kneading the dough several minutes longer than directed, while adding what felt like a generous amount of flour (I didn’t keep track of exactly how much) until I finally ended up with what seemed like a workable dough. I really would like to try this recipe again. The bread looked beautiful once everything was done. And the flavor is really nice. However, the crust seemed a little tough and I’m not sure if that’s just how it is, or if it’s because I over kneaded the dough. Worried that I may have ruined the dough, I consulted the challah recipe in the Art and Soul of baking and started a second dough during the fist rise of my Daring Bakers’ batch. Mushet’s basic recipe is similar to the Daring Bakers’ recipe in many ways. While following the second recipe, I encountered some information and advice that I, as a novice, found helpful and comforting. I’ll add a couple comments that may perhaps be helpful, if you too are new to Challah baking.
Here is the sweet and flavorful Daring Bakers’ recipe I tried.
Challah (Honey White) – from Tammy’s Recipes
Servings: adapted for 1 loaf rather than 2
3/4 cup warm water, separated
1-1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. dry active yeast
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 tsp. Oil (light colored or olive oil)
2 large eggs
3/4 tsp. salt
2.5 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
1 egg beaten
- In mixer bowl, whisk by hand 1/4 cup of warm water (approximately 110-115 degrees), the sugar, and the yeast. Allow to proof, approximately 5 minutes until foamy (or it may just look kinda creamy to you).
- Add the remaining water, the honey, the oil, the eggs, salt, and flour. Knead with the mixer on the appropriate setting until dough is smooth. Approximately 10 minutes. If dough seems overly sticky/ tacky towards the end of the kneading (7 minutes in or so), use a table spoon to begin adding flour. A couple spoons full at a time. Add just enough flour so that the dough is still tacky, but pulls away from the bowl a bit and seems manageable. (it will become easier to work with after the first rise)
- Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or brush a little oil on top. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
- Punch down the dough to expel some of the air. Shape or braid as desired. I did a standard 3 strand braid. Here is how it works: Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Use your rolling pin to roll each piece into a flat long disk of dough. With your hands, roll each disk into a long rope/snake with tapered ends. Once you have three strands, pinch the strands together at one end and braid the strands. When you’re done braiding, pinch the ends at the bottom together and tuck the pinched tips at the top and bottom under in order to make a nicely shaped loaf.
- Carefully place the loaf on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 30-60 minutes.
- After the second rise, use a pastry brush to brush on the egg wash (to make the egg wash simply whisk the egg in a bowl). This helps to make it a golden brown.
- Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes
- Cool on a wire rack.