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Sourdough Challah from "A Blessing of Bread"

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

RuthTalksFood's picture
RuthTalksFood

I made French toast for lunch today and it worked perfectly. I also think the bread stays fresher longer.

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

David, your formula calls for bread flour. I am fairly new to braided breads. Which flour is your preferred choice? The more I bake, the more important proper flour becomes.

This bake was posted long ago. Have you adapted another formula as your SD favorite version since then?

Thanks for posting such a beautiful bake.

Danny

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I haven't made this bread in ages, although I have been thinking about it the past few weeks.

Challah is often made with a relatively high-protein flour, but an AP like King Arthur or CM ABC would work fine. I may have used King Arthur Bread Flour (12.5-12.7% protein). I can't recall. Note that CM ABC flour, which was formulated originally for baguettes, has the same protein percentage as KA AP, but makes a dough that is much more extensible. That might be a good thing for rolling out the strands for braiding. I ought to try it, but another bread has priority for this week.

David

IgorL's picture
IgorL

If the flours have the same protein content, could one produce longer (or perhaps stronger) gluten strands than the other?  Otherwise, why would it make a dough that's much more extensible? 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Gluten is a molecule that forms when two other proteins in wheat combine in the presence of water. Those proteins are not all exactly the same in all varieties of wheat, and their differences effect the physical properties of the gluten they form. 

Glutenin proteins are long chains. It is responsible for the elasticity of dough. Gliadin proteins are short and globular. It is responsible for dough's extensibility -- the ability to stretch without tearing. (from Bread Science)

So, there are many tweaks the bread scientist and knowledgeable miller than do to provide a flour that meets the exact needs of a particular bakery.

Central Milling's ABC flour was formulated originally for Acme Bakery for their baguettes. But I like it a lot for Pain au Levain type breads too.

David

IgorL's picture
IgorL

Thanks a lot for the education!

Benito's picture
Benito

Hi David, I’m making this challah, my first challah and I do have a question about final proof.  You indicate to shoot for triple volume, would you say the finger poke test at that volume would pass and indicate the usual amount of proof?  Would the finger poke be accurate as far as when to bake?

I’m doing this as one larger loaf so six strand, the braiding was super fun.

Benny

IgorL's picture
IgorL

I tried several times, and I was never able to achieve such a nice looking braid.  I also do 6 strands, and I found it to be fairly easy once you remember the pattern of what goes where.  I also used honey in my dough every time, instead of sugar, and I think it messes up the way the dough feels and behaves, as well as adding a strange taste to the final loaf (even though I love honey by itself).

Please post pictures of a final loaf, when done!

Benito's picture
Benito

OH I will definitely post them here and in my blog Cooper, good or bad I post.  The post mortem is the way to learn.

I also grabbed olive oil by accident since it is what I usually cook with so I used about 60% olive oil and 40% canola oil.  Hopefully that doesn’t negatively affect the flavor.  I also used honey, interesting that you didn’t like the flavor it imparts despite liking honey.  I guess we’ll see how this turns out, if I don’t like the flavor at least I know what to adjust for next time.

I really enjoyed the plaiting, it was fun.  I watched this video a few times.  I guess my practice shaping baguettes was super helpful in getting the strands shaped.  I added sesame seeds after the egg wash.  The bread is in the oven now.

Benito's picture
Benito

All baked up and smelling awesome.  I’ll have to wait a while to slice it, probably have some at dinner time, I can’t wait.

IgorL's picture
IgorL

This looks marvelous!  Well done!!!

Benito's picture
Benito

Thanks Cooper, I’m surprised it went so well.

Benny

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I'm too late to help you with your proofing question, but whatever you did sure turned out well.

Anyway, Glezer says to let the loaf triple in size, but I don't shoot for that. What I do is use the poke test and my gut feeling. I shoot for what the old-fashioned Jewish bakers regarded as a "full proof." The criterion was, when you poke the dough, it doesn't completely fill back in. I would say the challah in the OP may have been somewhat under-proofed. Yours looks perfect to my eye.

Have you tasted it yet?

David

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you David firstly for your kind comments on my first challah, but also for all the effort you always put into your posts sharing these amazing recipes with the rest of us.  I truly appreciate what you’ve done over the years.

I did go with my gut and kept poking at the dough, as it started to spring back less and less I preheated the oven.  By the time the oven was at temperature, the dough didn’t spring back very much at all and in it went.

I’m going to have some of this soon for dinner and I cannot wait, as I’ve said I love challah so I’m really hoping to enjoy this, I just hope the olive oil I used doesn’t detract from it for me.  Anyhow, it will give me an excuse to make it again minus the olive oil.

Benny

Benito's picture
Benito

Super delicious challah David, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this recipe, it will not be the last time I bake this.  It is excellent even with the olive oil which I really cannot taste.  Wonderful crumb which is tender and moist.  The crust is great with the sesame seeds.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

In all respects, your Challah looks excellent. Great Job.

Benito's picture
Benito

Thank you Dan, not up to your amazingly more complex plaiting but I’m pleased as punch with how this baked up and tastes.

MiriMiri's picture
MiriMiri

Hi David, your challah looks beautiful! I want to share some information I just came across that you and others might find useful. I just bought "Breaking Breads" by Uri Scheft and he perfectly describes the texture of challah that I grew up eating and hope to some day achieve in my own baking: "When you break into a loaf of challah, it should pull apart almost like cotton candy coming off the paper cone. There is a soft and tender threadlike quality to the crumb of a well-kneaded challah. It is layered with sheets of tender gluten, so it can be almost unraveled rather than broken apart like a loaf of sandwich bread. There are three ways to achieve this: 1. Underknead.... with most dough, you want to be able to stretch a small corner to a thin sheet without it tearing (this is called the windowpane test). With challah, you don't want the gluten to get that strong--so knead only as instructed. 2. Underproof. Slightly underproof the challah, meaning that when you press a finger into the rising dough, the depression that's left fills in about halfway... 3. Use high heat to seal in moisture... You don't want challah to have a hearty, thick, and crisp crust--you just want the crust to be substantial enough to lock in the moisture during baking but soft enough to easily rip by hand when eating."

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I agree with Scheft's description of the desired crumb. The term generally used for this texture these days is "shredable." I don't agree with his procedural recommendations at all, however. I think the texture is as much a result of the oil and sugar as the factors he describes.

You don't want to overknead, but you do want good gluten development. Underproofing will increase oven spring and cause the ropes to separate. In fact, Glezer says to let these loaves triple in size before baking. I have found that to work well. I don't know what he regards as high heat, but I bake lean sourdough loaves at 460-480ºF, depending on size and shape. An enriched dough like challot will burn at those temperatures. I bake at 350-375ºF.

David

MiriMiri's picture
MiriMiri

David, thanks for the info! Shredable. Good to know about that. I had no way to describe it before reading Scheft, and now I have another term!

BTW, do you really get the loaves to triple in size after shaping? Mine do not nearly approach that.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Well, I don't have a precise way of measuring the volume, but they do more than double ... I think.

David

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