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.
Edit – for ALL the lowdown on challah, visit Ruth’s blog The Crafts of Mommyhood. She gives the history of challah, info about the significance of different methods of braiding, three recipes and even videos on how to braid the different loaves. She is an inspiration and a great Daring Baker!
I’ve been meaning to try challah (you don’t pronounce the c, if you were wondering) for some time. I love the look of it, but until now I didn’t know that there were so many different ways to braid a challah. The braids I tried were six strand braids, though you can also do a simpler three strand braid, a four strand braid or a really fancy round braid. I did want to try a round loaf this month but, alas, the time ran away with me! So much so, in fact, that my post is a day late. Tsk tsk.
I chose to make the Honey White recipe that was provided, which you can find here at Tammy’s Recipes.
My first attempt didn’t go too well… I didn’t add enough flour to the dough, which made it very soft and a bit, well… runny. Here are some photos, though I sort of gave up after it went in the oven so I don’t have a finished product photo!
The dough was so elastic that as I rolled it out it just stretched and stretched, meaning that the strands I was braiding were growing as I worked with them. I thought I might never reach the end of them, like trying to drink a cup of tea in the rain. I rolled it into the scroll shape because it was a bit unmanageable by the time I was finished, and I rather liked the effect. It could have been a lovely loaf, if it hadn’t been so relaxed. It was still a nice bread, though a bit on the thin side. There was certainly lots of it – that was only using half the recipe.
I tried the same recipe again but adding more flour to get a tauter, firmer dough. This attempt went much better and kept its shape beautifully as I shaped and braided it.
I did a six strand braid, which was fun to pull together. I’m an old hand at the three strand braid, having had lots of toy ponies as a child whose tails I would braid. In fact any scarves I own that have tassels on the end get braided over and over again if I happen to be at a loose end. Bus journeys see a lot of braiding, for example. The six strand braid was a fun challenge – you start from the left and go over two, under one and over the last two, then repeat until you run out of space. Then you tuck the narrow ends under and let the challah rise for a little while before glazing and baking.
I happened to have run out of eggs, so I brushed the loaf with oil before scattering with sesame seeds. It didn’t give the lovely lacquered, deep coloured finish that you usually see on challah but I liked the end result all the same.
The close up shows the stripes in the finished loaf, which I think are made by the dough stretching as it rises. Stretch marks have never been so appetising.
I really enjoyed making challah. The bread itself is soft and rich and it kept me in sandwiches (tiny sandwiches) for a while. It wasn’t as yellow in colour as I’d expected, but I know there are hundreds of different recipes for challah available and some will include more eggs, or just egg yolks, to give that really deep colour. It was also quite a sweet bread, with the honey in the recipe – next on the list is a wholewheat challah, I’m looking forward to trying a more savoury version.