Saturday, April 21, 2012


Back in September of 2008 I read an article in the New York Times Magazine's Recipe Redux column about challah. Four years later, I finally made it. Not the 2008 version, which, much like the article, is offensive on a lot of levels. I made the 1976 version. Well, I made my food processor version of it. In fact, I've made it about seven times in the past three months, and I think I've perfected it.

The original recipe from Sarah Schecht of Brooklyn appeared in an article by Craig Claiborne in 1976. I’ve divided it in half, given food processor directions, and braided like a sane person instead of in an eight-strand braid. However, the pictures you see in this post are actually of a double batch following the instructions below (literally, I made it once, then made it again . . . otherwise it doesn't fit in the food processor, or in any bowl I own to rise) and then following Ms. Schecht's instructions for braiding, which even I could follow.
I highly recommend using Penzeys Ceylon cinnamon, which has a heavenly, ethereal taste, unlike the heavy ground bark you get from your average grocery store cinnamon. I used Penzeys cinnamon blend this last time, and while it is leaps and bounds better than grocery store cinnamon (which is probably stale China cinnamon), it might have resulted in challah too breakfast-y to use for lunch sandwiches.

If you are planning to use your challah for sandwiches, allow the second rise (the one after you braid it) to continue a little longer. On cold days, I let it rise more than an hour. The challah pictured here rose for two hours and 15 minutes in a kitchen with an ambient temperature around 71 degrees. The reason traditional challah might fall apart when you cut it for sandwiches is because it is supposed to be easy to pull apart to share on Shabbat, like a loaf of dinner rolls.
2012: Challah
  • 4 1/2 C unbleached flour, plus additional flour for kneading
  • 1 t dry active yeast
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 C plus 2 T plus 1/8 t sugar (save the 1/8 for the egg wash)
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs (save one for the egg wash)
  • 1/4 C plus 2 T canola oil
  • 3/4 C lukewarm water
  • Place the flour, yeast, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in the food processor bowl. Pulse to combine.
  • Add the vanilla, 2 of the eggs, and the oil and run on bread setting for 20 seconds. Add 3/4 c lukewarm water and run again for 20 seconds. The dough is ready when it doesn’t stick to your hands. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then lay a clean towel over that, and let rise for at least an hour.
  • Turn the dough onto a flat surface and knead briefly. Cut off 1/3 of the dough, knead quickly, shape into a ball, flour lightly and let rest for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a 12-to-15-inch-long rope. Continue with remaining balls.
  • On a baking sheet lined with a Silpat non-stick baking sheet liner (or analog), align the ropes, side by side. Gather the tops together, one at a time, pinching down to seal. Braid them. When braided, gather the bottom ends of the ropes and pinch them together.
  • Cover the loaf with a towel and place in a warm spot until the loaf is doubled in size, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1/8 t sugar. Brush the loaf with the egg wash. Bake until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes.
Makes 1 loaf.

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Rebecca said...

Looks delicious! And it looks like it holds together better than the one at our local bakery, making it more varied in its use.

We made soft pretzels this weekend. I thought they were too sweet. I'll try modifying the recipe and make a post soon.