The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

challah blob need help

shalamis's picture

challah blob need help

Hello, am a novice bread maker and need some help with my second proofing for challah.  I'm fine until I proof for second time on a baking stone.  With braided dough it rises not only up but all over the stone.  Of course this doesn't happen when it's confined in a loaf pan.  How do I keep the dough from blobbing all over the place when it's not in the loaf pan?  The bread tastes good but is generally splayed out not very high.  Need Help to keep the blob from taking over my oven!!  Thanks.  Shalamis


Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

How are you developing the dough? By hand? Mixer? Is this a sourdough or a commercial yeasted bread? Your problem is structual integrity. How are you forming the individual braids?

There's a lot of places the structual integrity is either not being developed properly, or breaking down on you. We need more info to work with...

- Keith

shalamis's picture

I'm using a Bosche mixer and then knead by hand.  This is a yeast bread.  What the heck is "structual integrity"?  I cut the dough into pieces once it has proofed the first time, weigh them to try to keep them even, then roll and braid.  Is that bad?? Oiy vay...  Could I be overproofing, what is overproofing?  I'm reading the entries like crazy on the site and trying to absorb everything.  When I proof for the first time I allow the dough to rise, poke my finger to see if the dough bounces back and try to give it atleast to twice it's size.  Wrong??

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Structural integrity is a combination of dough hydration, gluten development, and shaping. It's a balancing act that becomes quite significant when doing freeform loaves. Most challahs are fairly firm to work with. If you had any trouble rolling the individual braids, then your dough may be slightly over-hydrated.

If your hydration was normal for this dough, then there might not have been enough gluten development to support and capture the gas being released by the yeast. Did you do any sort of windowpane test, or is there any way to eliminate this as the problem? Good gluten structure can also break down due to too long a fermentation, so that's a question mark that needs an answer. If the gluten was breaking down after bulk fermenting, you most likely would have noticed while working with the braids. The dough would have been very gooey and sticky. I doubt this was the problem if you successfully rolled up braids and braided them without a dump truck full of bench flour.

The tension for these loaves are in the shaping of each individual braid. Not knowing exactly how you 'roll' each braid up leaves that as a possible suspect. There's a video of Maggie Glezer doing a six-braid challah, and you can watch her use a rolling pin to create dough tension for each braid, then roll them up and stretch. If you master that, we can eliminate poor shaping for the loss of structure.

Each one of these areas adds to the structural integrity of your final proof. It's a house of cards, and if any of these 3 things are weak, the house might collapse before getting it to the oven.

You mentioned overproofing. You would know this was the case if the final braided dough stood up nice and firm, began doubling, then collapsed later. If the final braided loaf immediately started falling, then it was structure and not overproofing.

- Keith

arzajac's picture

Overproofing can cause what you describe.  So can a dough that is too wet. and it sounds like your dough may be a little too wet (Stiffer doughs keep their shape better when braided)

Here's an example of extreme *underproofing* which can produce a successful challah:

sheilat's picture

here's the scoop from a veteran Challah maker: I also sometimes get the flatbread effect.

1. You have to learn to read your dough. Challah dough does tend to be softer, but you need to have it stiff enough not to flab out on you. So when you are mixing the dough in the machine  you need to get it to the point of it not sticking to your hand if you touch it - IT NEEDS TO FEEL SILKY. If it is humid the dough  might be more stickythan in drier conditions , but as you are dealing with eggs, oil and water as liquids there are many variables. So if it is kinda sticky add a tablespoon or so more flour and let it mix in for a minute and then try the feel again. if it is big time sticky add 1/4 cup more. Be patient and let the mixer work the dough in as it comes together for you so you don't add too much flour. If necc. tip it out and finish by hand on a floured surface until it feels right Then let to rise and knock down and rise again.

2. Flour the surface that you will be kneading and braiding before you dump out the dough after the second rising. Knead the dough for a minute or two  so that is smooth and not sticky. Add more flour if you need to. Let the dough rest covered for 5 minutes to relax  it- this stops it being so elastic and shrinking on you as you make the ropes.

3. Here is what I have learned: use a three rope braid - don't get fancy. Also as you divide up the dough into braids make sure you use a tiny amount of flour on each new surface.  You want to achieve no stickyness here as well. Don't make the ropes too long. No more than 12 inches for a large  6 cup of flour bread. Now braid the challah tightly, you don't want it too big or it will spread.

4. Don't over rise it before you bake it.  You don't need it looking the size it will be when baked! Test by gently poking the dough with your finger. if it springs back put it in to bake. You need to watch it if the room is warm b/c the loaf can grow on you real fast. Try letting the braids rise in the fridge Thurs into Friday and then bringing it up to room temp Friday before baking. That helps too, esp in the summer.


xaipete's picture

Shalamis, I just noticed that you are proofing on a baking stone. Is the stone hot? Why not just proof on parchment paper and then put the parchment paper line challah in the oven to bake when ready?


Janknitz's picture

 so that we can see what you are working with?  That will help us see the hydration level and what else might be going on.  

Also, you really don't need to bake challah on a stone because it is a soft-crusted enriched dough.  You can (and should) use a baking sheet.  Rose Levy-Berenbaum suggest using two baking sheets--one inside the other, for an insulated baking sheet effect--this works nicely but is not required.