The Fresh Loaf

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Perfecting Challah

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SadieRose's picture
SadieRose

Perfecting Challah

Hello all,

I am a novice bread baker who has fallen head over heels for challah. Maybe it's the Hebrew roots of my name, Sadie, or maybe it's the amazing eggy deliciousness that is challah. Either way, I would like to perfect this bread and as a novice it's hard to know what exactly I am doing wrong since there seem to be so many variables in the science of bread baking.

This is the challah that came out of my oven not 15 minutes ago:

While the braid is obviously not perfect, what I'm bothered by is the way that the braid is coming apart and appears to stretch and pull. To be honest, I have never had challah made by anyone but me, so I don't know if the texture or flavor is wrong. All I know is that the challah that I make I enjoy--but this braid issue really has me bothered! I love baking pretty things, and this just isn't cutting it. Plus, I'm worried that this could be affecting the flavor and/or texture of the challah and I just don't know because I've never had the real thing.

The recipe I used is here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10809/sweet-vanilla-challah

Thanks in advance,

Sadie

Chavi's picture
Chavi

Hi there,

 

First of all your challah is beautiful and if it tastes great to you, that's all that matters! 

 

As far as the stretching, a couple of things come to mind. The first is when you roll your strands to be gentle with them and not roll them too hard as to cause them to tear. This can be a cause of this stretching. Also, take care not to braid the strands too tightly. Leaving room for the strands to rise and expand in the oven will help them not to look like that. 

 

Hope that helps!

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

You might try proofing longer before baking.  If loaves are underproofed more 'splitting' happens.  Your loaf looks very nice!

Mary Clare in MO

Elagins's picture
Elagins

one common mistake is braiding too tightly, which stretches and tears the dough.  use loose braids and proof to 3/4 proof, where your finger leaves an indentation when you press it into the dough.  otherwise, a very nice looking loaf.

Stan

PS. you might want to have a look at the Challah chapter of "Inside the Jewish Bakery" for background, recipes and braiding instructions

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Sure looks edible.

Braid it cold and stiff and don't try to make it tight.

A stiffer dough will tend to give you a more 3-D braid and loaf.

Proofing at lower temperature will tend to help as well.

The dough is going to do its thing so don't fight it.

Let it ferment and proof fully to avoid stretch marks.

Look here for recent photos of alternate styles of braiding.

Maverick's picture
Maverick

You have received some great advice above. I just wanted to second the idea of trying out different number of strands for braiding. I find the 6 strand to be very pretty and makes for a great presentation. Plus if you get the separation, it is not right on top of the challah, so it is less of an issue. I think 4 strands are nice too, but try a 6 to get a nice high loaf that looks really professional. Good luck and post more pictures.

GrapevineTexas's picture
GrapevineTexas

what a beautiful loaf of Challah....and I'd be happy to make such a beautiful braid.  :)  

Your bread looks absolutely delicious.

chickadee3's picture
chickadee3 (not verified)

What a pretty loaf!  I'm still a beginner at bread making, but I have noticed some things when I braid.  When the dough is wetter and I braid it tightly, it tends to join itself before baking, allowing for a not-as-significant braid and a slice-able type of loaf.  When the dough is thicker and I braid with some seperation, loosely, then it tends to be a pull-apart bread.  I try to move each strand perpendicular to the main braid as I cross them over to give an even weave, but it does tend to stretch a bit.  I still have more experimentation to do.

If anyone else read this, while I think of this:  is there an alternative glazing thing I can do to make a nice shiny top?  I'm thinking using oil might tend to fry the bread rather than coat it.  We don't eat egg at our house.  (I use sourcream in my doughs as substitute).

Elagins's picture
Elagins

you could use the cornstarch glaze used on rye breads. bring 3/4 cup of water to a boil, stir in 2 tsp of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of water and stir until the mixture thickens.  let it cool and brush it onto the hot breads as soon as they come out of the oven.  for best results, take out one loaf and glaze it, then take out the second and repeat.  don't put the glaze on too thick, since it will get gummy and soften the crust.

Stan

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Try condensed milk, straight out of the can.

nanokatz's picture
nanokatz

Just to throw in my two cents as well as offer some encouragement...

You are not the only person to have this problem and have issues solving it! I've been teaching one of my friends how to make challah over the last few months and whenever she trys to braid it on her own this happens. Usually it is some combination of a  overly tight braid, rising conditions being too dry or the oven being too hot initally (her oven is.....wonky).

And as someone who has been eaten challah (homemade and otherwise) literally all thier life i know many people who would be jealous of that challah; tears and all!