October 05, 2006

Jacob's Challa Recipe

2 1/4 cups of warmish (but not hot) water
1/4 cup orange juice
2 sachets dried yeast
1/2 cup honey (to be honest, I sometimes put in a bit more than this)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 eggs (2 for bread - 1 for glaze)
1 tablespoon salt
about 1.5 kg unbleached all-purpose flour
1 whole bunch of sultanas (optional)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
baking parchment

1 In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. The bigger the bowl the easier this whole recipe is, so pick a nice big one. If you donít have a big bowl, use the biggest pot you have, and itíll do just fine (thatís what I did until I broke down and bought one - Allders sells some very nice big ceramic bowls by the way).

Add the orange juice, oil, salt, 2 eggs, and honey. Beat until well combined.

The flour requires some observation. Add about a cup or two at a time, beating/stirring after each addtion. After it stops sticking to the walls of the bowl and seems more doughlike, start kneading it with your hands.
Every bread recipe says that dough should be kneaded until itís smooth and elastic and slightly tacky but not sticky. This is almost impossible to describe if you havenít felt it before, but itís not hard to recognize once youíve had it pointed out. But hereís my best bet:

If the dough sticks to your hands, scrape them clean. When the dough sticks to your hands, it needs more flour, which you should knead in. Once it becomes smooth and elastic (pull on it - it should pull itself back together) and itís no longer sticky, youíre done.

Place the lump of dough in an oiled bowl/pot and cover the bowl with some plastic wrap.

Leave to sit for 1.5 hours or until itís about twice the size as when you left it.

2 Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Divide into three pieces (or two if youíre only making two loaves) and knead each half for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky.
If you want to put sultanas (or anything else) in the bread, pour them out onto the work surface and knead them into one (or more, if you like) of the pieces until they are evenly distributed through the dough.

Roll each part into a long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Pinch the ends of 3 (or 4) together and braid them, pinching together at the other side.

Place each completed loaf onto a sheet of baking parchment which is on top of a baking tray.

Cover with towel or loosely placed plastic wrap and let rise about one hour.

3 If you are baking two loaves in one oven, preheat it to 200 C. If you are only baking one loaf in the oven, preheat to 180 C.

4 Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each braid. If you donít have a brush, using a spoon and a finger works well, too. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.

5 Bake for between 45 minutes and an hour. Why the large variation in baking times? I have no idea. If you have two loaves in the oven, I recommend swapping their shelves about 25 minutes into the baking. And, since the air currents in small ovens are so bad, in order for the bottom of the loaf to cook appropriately, I recommend turning the loaves upside down on their baking sheets after about 35 or 40 minutes.

When the bread is done, it should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack (so the bottom doesnít get soggy). Donít try to slice it for at least an hour, but feel free to rip into it if you canít wait that long.

Posted by reisel at 04:20 PM