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Sourdough Challah from "A Blessing of Bread"

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dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Sourdough Challah from "A Blessing of Bread"


 


I'm rather fond of challah, but my wife isn't. Most challah is too rich and too sweet for her taste. The closer to brioche it tastes, the less she likes it. So, when I made “My Sourdough Challah” from Maggie Glezer's “A Blessing of Bread,” and both my wife and I loved it, I was delighted.


Of course, all challah was made with sourdough before the introduction of commercial yeast. Since then, according to Glezer, challah has tended to be made sweeter and richer. Sourdough challah has a “moister, creamier texture” and stays fresh longer that the yeasted variety. Glezer's version has a delightful sourdough tang which lends it an almost “sweet and sour” flavor. It is wonderful plain, as toast and as French toast.


 


Ingredients

The starter

Amount (gms)

Active firm sourdough starter

35

Warm water

80

Bread flour

135

 

 

The final dough

Warm water

60

Large Eggs

3 eggs + 1 egg for glazing the loaves.

Salt

8

Vegetable oil

55

Mild honey

65

Or Granulated sugar

60

Bread flour

400*

Sourdough starter

All of the above+

    * I added an additional 3 tablespoons or so of flour during mixing, because the dough seemed too wet. This may have been needed due to my using more starter than Glezer specifies. See below.

    + Glezer says to use only 200 gms of starter, but I used all of it (250 gms)

Procedures

  1. The night before baking, mix the starter and ferment it at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

  2. In the morning, in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the starter in the water, then mix in the 3 eggs, salt, honey and oil until completely combined.

  3. Mix in all the bread flour until it forms a shaggy mass.

  4. Knead the dough on the bench or in a stand mixer until it is smooth and there is moderate gluten development. Add small amounts of water or flour to achieve the desired consistency. The dough should be quite firm.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it tightly. Ferment for about 2 hours. It may not rise much.

  6. To make two 1 pound loaves, divide the dough into two equal portions, and divide each portion into the number of pieces needed for the type of braiding you plan to do. (I did 3-strand braids.)

  7. Form each piece into a ball and allow them to rest, covered, for 10-20 minutes to relax the gluten.

  8. Form each piece into a strand about 14” long. (I like Glezer's technique for this. On an un-floured board, flatten each piece with the palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to about ¼ inch thickness. Then roll up each piece into a tight tube. Using the palms of your hands, lengthen each piece by rolling each tube back and forth on the bench with light pressure. Start with your hands together in the middle of the tube and, as you roll

    it, move your hands gradually outward. Taper the ends of the tube by rotating your wrists slightly so that the thumb side of your hand is slightly elevated, as you near the ends of the tube.)




  9. Braid the loaves.




  10. Place each loaf on parchment paper in half-sheet pans (I used a quarter-sheet pan for each loaf.) Cover well with plasti-crap or place the pans in a food grade plastic bag, and proof at room temperature until the loaves have tripled in volume. (Glezer says this will take “about 5 hours.” My kitchen was rather cool. I proofed for 6 hours.)




  11. Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF with the rack in the upper third of the oven.




  12. Brush each loaf with an egg lightly beaten with a pinch of salt.




  13. Optionally, sprinkle the loaves with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds.




  14. Bake until done – 25-35 minutes for 1 pound loaves.




  15. Cool completely before slicing.





David


Submitted to YeastSpotting on SusanFNP's Wildyeastblog


 

Comments

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Lovely breads, David.  They literally glow with goodness.   I've never tasted Challah; yours look very inviting!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Challah was one of the breads I grew up on ... grew out on, also. Like most breads these days for most of us, the challah you can make at home is better than anything you can buy.


Glezer's book has something like 40 different challah recipes. It's amazing.


David

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

get such distinct definition in the creases of your braids.  The rise in the highest parts, and the clean junctions at the crossing points of the braids is exceptionally clear.  I'd wager that the crumb is every bit as tender and moist as it looks too.  I have Challah on my holiday baking list, but I had not thought of trying it as sourdough.  Thanks for the inspiration.


OldWoodenSpoon

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I'm still learning how to braid and how long to proof challot (the Hebrew plural of "challah") to get the best definition of the braiding in the baked loaf. I was pleased with this result. One definite necessity is braiding somewhat loosely.


I bet some of the real challah experts like Janknitz could add some tips based on their greater experience.


I do recommend this version. It's delicious.


David

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I haven't tried Maggie Glezer's version (just got the book for my birthday), but I've been making RLB's version from her website, for which she credits Maggie as the inspiration.  


It is delicious challah, not too sweet (my kids complain, but eat it just the same), and with a lovely texture.  I'll have to try this one to compare, though I really don't want any of the sourdough flavor to come through.  


Anyway, beautiful job, David!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

You are one of my challah baking inspirations!


Is the RLB version to which you refer sourdough?


This one is sweet enough to my taste. If it were sweeter, my wife wouldn't like it. In fact, one of her comments when we tasted it just cooled was "It's almost like cake." BTW, the sourdough flavor does come through, but it doesn't dominate. Try it. You might like it.


David

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I love making and eating challah but I have not tried a sourdough one and yours looks delicious.  Lovely crumb and braiding, David!


Sylvia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Soudough challah is definitely different in flavor and, some, in texture, as well as proofing time, compared to yeasted versions. It also stays fresh tasting longer, as you would expect.


It seems to me that yeasted challot depend on the enrichments for their flavor. The sourdough version adds the complexity of flavor we expect from longer fermentations.


Do try it, and let us know how you like it.


David

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Beautiful, David.  Mind if I feature it for a bit?

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

If you want to feature it, I'd be honored.


David

txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

I am loving this book since I like the taste of challah, and LOVE all those fun shapes. Have been wanting to try this recipe, now I definitely will!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I've admired the challot you've blogged on. That Pumpkin Challah last month was (literally) stellar!

David

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

What can I say?   They're beautiful!


Betty

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Beautiful as usual David. I've not made a sourdough version of this bread but the family I usually gift these to is now watching sugar intake due to medical concerns. This might be a welcome change. I'm guessing some of that honey is consumed during the longer ferment.


Eric

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Glezer points out that, because of the effect of high sugar on yeast action, her sourdough challah has less sugar than the yeasted versions. I'm sure some of the sugar does get fermented, but the bread still has a sweet flavor.


David

RachelJ's picture
RachelJ

I have never heard of any challah or challot bread recipes using sourdough. But I have always wanted to make sourdough bread, as though it seems to be a hard bread to make, I have always been fascinated by it. We have our Shabbat/sabbath meal every Friday evening, and I make the challah for it. I'm trying to find the perfect recipe for making it.


I will be checking out more on this subject, as it intrigues me.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Rachel.


I'm a pretty inexperienced challah baker compared to you, but if you are looking for new recipes, do check out Glezer's "A Blessing of Bread." Actually, you should read it for the historical and cultural content, even if you never bake from it.


I would encourage you to try sourdough baking. It is not "harder" than baking with commercial yeast, once you have understood a few of the differences. Almost all the breads I bake are made with natural leavening. (I'm resisting a "hard sell," but if you have questions about sourdough baking, there is a wealth of information available here on TFL and elsewhere online, as well as in any number of excellent cook books.)


David

RachelJ's picture
RachelJ

I'll have to look about the book. I am finding so much out about bread. I've never really been able to bake my own bread - there's always a hole, or it goes flat, too gooey, burnt... I'm a disaster at bread baking. the only one I can really do is the challah, and sometimes that is a fop too.


I've been wanting to get the Bread Baker's Apprentice, but I've not been able to. I've always been fascinated by rustic breads as you don't see them all too often in the stores, and I've never really been to a bakery. Not to mention I love history and when I think of making rustic breads, I feel as if I've gone back in time. (if you know what I mean.) Its a piece of history right on the table.


The book looks interesting, but I probably won't be able to get it, due to certain circumstances. Unfortunately, as I would love to have it. I love Jewish things, and since learning all about Torah and the Jewish way of life, I'd be very happy to have this book. I'm assuming the author is Jewish? :)


Thanks again for your help. I'll be looking into doing sourdough breads.

RachelJ's picture
RachelJ

I just read that you said "I'm a pretty inexperienced challah baker compared to you," I thought you said you were more experienced! I'm sorry. No really I'm not. I still fop at it sometimes. But I am learning every time I make it, and I enjoy it. :) I hope you will make it more often, as I find braided bread is not only pretty, but rewarding. Glad you wife liked the one you made. :)

mrosen814's picture
mrosen814

looks stellar David!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

Bixmeister's picture
Bixmeister

Beautiful loaves David.  You have the touch!


 


Bix

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

David in step 4.  Step 2 and 3 the starter has already been added to the flour mixture?


Sylvia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hmmm ... Step 4. is redundant, isn't it? I'll have to check the book, but I know I added the starter as described in Step 2.


David

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Thank you so very much for the inspiration and write-up, David!


Sylvia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Yours are so beautiful!


David

Nathan's picture
Nathan

Great pictures and post. I'm definitely going to give this a shot.


When you said you ended up adding additional flour because you found the dough too wet, I wondered whether or not it had to do with the size of the eggs you used. In my experience, I have always had hydration problems with enriched breads that include eggs. I haven't been back home for awhile so I don't remember how they are sold, but here in Spain you can buy three different sizes of eggs; 'Small' eggs weigh around 50g, 'medium-sized' eggs weigh 60-65g and 'large' eggs weigh around 75g. So, depending on which eggs are used, 'three' eggs can weigh between 150g and 225g. Does Glezer specify what the average weight of the eggs she used for her formulas? When I use formulas -like those found in Hamelman's and DiMuzio's books- that include percentages for eggs, I never have a problem because I can weigh them. However, recipes that call for 2, 3 or however many eggs generally give me problems.


Again, thanks for the post and great job!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I think I had to add the extra flour because I added too much starter. The point you make about eggs is good, though. "Large" eggs are the standard in cookbooks, but the definition covers a range. I have been led to believe that professional bakers add eggs strictly by weight. 


For the home baker, I guess it's another instance of "know the dough" and adjust accordingly. I'm still at the "getting acquainted" stage with challah.


David

Mimi_M's picture
Mimi_M

Beautiful loaves.  I primarily use my starter for baking, it is nice to have a recipe that uses no commercial yeast!

calliekoch's picture
calliekoch

I used Reinhart's recipe for transitional whole wheat Challah, which I found on one of my favorite cooking blogs: 101 Cookbooks


I had never made Challah before and this one came out nicely, making two good sized loaves. I also have not done a whole lot of braiding, but tried both a three-strand and a six-strand braid. They come out not too shabby in my humble opinion.


I would love to give this type of bread another try, but using sourdough someday.


Challah


Callie

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Very impressive for your first time braiding!


David

tomctuc's picture
tomctuc

Hi!  New to the site.  I've been baking with sourdough exclusively for the past 10 years or so.  I love the challenge as one can't always expect the same results each time, and I love being able to form the loaves before going to bed and forgetting about them. 


I spearhead a monthly Shabbat dinner at one of the area nursing homes.  The results of my sourdough experiments seem always eagerly anticipated.  I, too, am a fan of Glezer's "Blessing" book and was happy to find a sourdough equivalent to almost every recipe in the book. 


Depending on the time of year, I go through a variety of proofing "boxes" and my try the aquarium heater next.  Seldom does room temp. seem convenient or timely for me, due to the coolness of the house in winter and AC in the summer.  The garage has been the most successful venue during our Texas summers due to the slow early morning rise at lower temp. and the faster rise as the space heats up at midday.  My car has proven wonderful when I get the dough started late, as it goes through the same natural temp changes as the garage.  And just last Saturday I tried the car with the heater initially because of a time crunch.  6 doz. rolls rising to be "en point" balloons - looked like they were just about to take off. 


Hopefully, the next adventure will be to build an outdoor oven.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, tomctuc.


Welcome to TFL!


I've not attempted to make a proofing box. I sort of make do with what's at hand. I have not proofed outdoors, but I've been thinking about trying it for cold retardation. Of course, when it's below refrigerator termp., that's less tempting.



david

CaptainBatard's picture
CaptainBatard

I also grew up on challah...your looks amazing....


I wanted to make a challah for a dinner x-mas day...perfect timing cause i have a stiff starter ready to go...I was going to make a celebration loaf...ala BBA...have you added raisins to this loaf? what do you think would be the max i could add...?I guess i have to start it tonight...thanks


Judd

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I've not added raisins to challah, but I know there are those who like it that way. I would guess you could add somewhere around 20% of the flour weight in raisins, but maybe some one who makes it with raisins has personal experience to contribute.


David

Smita's picture
Smita

Many thanks for sharing! I started with an almost 100% hydration starter and used about 120 gms of white whole wheat flour (KAF). I made a loaf and four snails. Its a hot, humid day in NYC, and I only let it rise 3 hours. Not a fan of the egg glaze so I skipped it.


I am super pleased with the results - many thanks for sharing! The instructions were very helpful.


Challah

dickeytt's picture
dickeytt

Hi dmsnyder, I just wanted to thank you for this recipe, as my family loves Challah and I love sourdough baking, I decided to give this recipe a try.  I used a mixer to do my kneading and platted it in a 3 strand single loaf.  I let it prove for over 6 hours and baked in the oven for 50 mins with a turn and put upside down for the last 10 min.

This is a fantastic challah loaf and i will defiantly make this again, my only problem is with the plat definition, after the prove, it had merged into a long loaf with only a slight sign that it was platted, have you any suggestion on how to make the plates stand out more?

Again, thanks for the posting the recipe.

Richard

 

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Richard.

I haven't made challah in quite some time and am certainly no expert. I believe a couple things that help to keep the braids well-defined is to braid loosely and to avoid over-proofing. 

I hope others with more expertise add their advice.

David

PetraR's picture
PetraR

Could I use my Rye Starter?

The Rye Starter is a 100% hydration but firm.

Or should I get my wheat starter out of the fridge and take some out to make a firm starter from it?

LOVE the look of your bread.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Petra.

I don't see why you couldn't use your rye starter  for the challah starter. The total percentage of rye would be small in the final dough. Let us know how it turns out.

David

PetraR's picture
PetraR

Oh wonderful David:)

I shall go on a quest.