The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with Challah!

JenZ's picture

Help with Challah!

I love to bake challah, and need some help.  There's a place local to me that sells challah frozen and unbaked.  It's fully braided and ready to go.  You just leave it out to defrost and rise, glaze it with egg, and bake.  I've been trying to do the same thing without success.  I have a wonderful challah recipe that gets rave reviews from everyone who eats it.  But when I freeze the unbaked loaves, they don't come out the same.

There seem to be 2 main problems.  First, the texture is different.  Instead of a nice smooth glossed finish, it gets kind of mottled.  It doesn't impact the taste, but just doesn't look as nice.  The other problem is that the braids frequently meld together.  They are no longer nice and crisp looking.  They kind of flatten out.

I've tried different things.  I increase the yeast by about 1/3 over the regular recipe.  I freeze first, and then put in plastic bags.  I'm just not sure what else I could be doing wrong.  How can I fix this?

Thanks so much for any help you can give me.


flournwater's picture

Have you tried brushing each piece of dough with oil prior to braiding?  Are you using "freezer" plastic wrap?  Not all plastic wrap material is impervious to air.  Air will pass through the pores of most non-freezer type plastic wrap/bags.  Be sure you evacuate all of the air (or as much of it as possible) from the bag/wrapping before freezing.  If you refrigerate your loaf before freezing, keep in mind that one of the properties of refrigeration is to dehumidify the air so your bread will dry out to some extent while it's cooling in the fridge.

Using vacuum packaging for freezing would be optimum.  You might also want to try packaging and freezing your dough at about the half way point in its final proofing.  Then let it run through its final proof at room temperature after it has thawed from th freezer.

Janknitz's picture

I've never been a fan of freezing shaped loaves to bake later--they never come out well for me.  I much prefer to freeze the baked challah, and then thaw it as needed.  If we forget to take it out Friday morning, it's easy to thaw in the mircrowave in time for Shabbat dinner.

Here's my method and I swear on my first born's head that the challahs come out tasting like they were baked that very day!

1.  Wrap the freshly baked and completely cooled challah tightly in foil. 

2.  Place in a plastic bag or wrap in plastic cling wrap, and freeze.

3.  8 hours before use (or overnight), remove the challah from the freezer but DO NOT UNWRAP.  As the challah thaws, the moisture will condense, and if you leave it completely wrapped up it will reabsorb the moisture as before.

4.  Remove the plastic wrap but don't remove the foil (unless microwaving!).  Place in a moderate oven (about 350) for 10 to 15 minutes. 

5.  Remove challah from oven (mmm, smells like you just baked it!), unwrap and just try not to eat it until blessings are said--I dare you!  We like it still slightly warm. 

I bake 4 challahs at a time and pop them in the freezer.  It's so nice to always have a challah on hand. 

willwork4SD's picture

Could be that the local place you buy the challah from freezes their loaves quicker than a home freezer is capable of, therefore forming smaller ice crystals in the dough that do less damage to the dough? Just a thought. Flash-frozen foods tend to thaw in better condition.


flournwater's picture

Yep, that's a very good possibility.

Elagins's picture

one of the best ways to ensure that strands stay separate is to dust them with white rye flour or rice flour before braiding. both flours resist incorporation by the gluten-y dough and maintain strand separation.

BTW, I completely agree with Janknitz: freezing bread after baking is far superior to freezing unbaked dough (although I do freeze my pizza dough, for obvious reasons).

Stan Ginsberg