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Challah help

George bakes in Barbados's picture
George bakes in...

Challah help

I have always been in love with the look of Challah and decided to try it for myself using a recipe from Baking and Pastry. I ran into some trouble when it came to rolling the dough pieces into logs—it was very, very firm. I would do a dog bone shape with a log and try to extend but it was somewhat resisting and then started to tear as I got longer (it was still pretty thick for challah). I developed the dough to full gluten as described and it passed the window test successfully.

After kneading (DDT was 24C/75F), I formed a boule and allowed the dough to ferment at room temp for 30 mins (25C/77F) and then in the fridge for another 30 min. I then divided the dough, allowed the fat logs to rest for about 20 min after shaping them so that I can roll them out into the strands to braid, and then I ran into difficulty.

I should note that the recipe called for a bulk fermentation until the dough doubled, around 35 min but I didn’t want to risk overfermenting given the ambient temperature and humidity in the hot climate of Barbados.

I made a sponge as described as well. Here is the recipe:

  • Sponge (fermented for 20 min, showed good activity):
    • bread flour (11.4%, 95g)—the protein content is 11.2%
    • yeast (1.4%, 14g)-I had exactly 11g left so that is what I used
    • water (11.6%, 95g)
  • Final dough:
    • Bread flour (88.6%, 723g)
    • Water (11.6%, 95g)
    • Eggs (22.4%, 184g)
    • Egg yolks (5.7%, 43g)
    • Vegetable oil (9.2%, 78g)—I used soy since this is freely available in Barbados
    • Sugar (10%, 78g)
    • Honey (5.7%, 47g)
    • Salt (2.1%, 19g)
    • Sponge (24.3%, all of the above sponge)

I have no idea why it was so difficult to roll out and began tearing, is that a sign of overworked gluten? The resultant challah that came out had a nice crust and the the crumb was fine (is that how it should be?) and soft. Looking forward to any suggestions or advice.

semolina_man's picture

Possibly low hydration.  You have approximate hydration in the low 60% range, and enrichment from oil and eggs. 

Try adding water to achieve 67% hydration, counting water+oil+eggs weight as hydration.  It should be quite supple and extensible. 

George bakes in Barbados's picture
George bakes in...

Thanks for that but most of the challah recipes I've come across include a lower hydration dough.

dmsnyder's picture

Challah is made with a low-hydration dough, and it is typically very stiff. In rolling out the pieces prior to braiding, you may have to give them 2 or 3 rests during the process if they are too elastic and spring back. You do not want to tear the dough. Just take your time and let the dough tell you what it needs you to do.

Same thing with bagels, by the way.


George bakes in Barbados's picture
George bakes in...

Yes, I think my mistake came with not allowing the dough to rest properly. I became bewitched by watching Helmann creating it with ease in a KAF live video and don't think I noticed a rest or mention of one, could have missed it. Will do! Thanks so much!

Kistida's picture

The recipe I use is about 65-68% hydration and after dividing the dough, I let the lil rough balls rest for 20 minutes. Then, take a dough ball, flatten to a rough rectangle, then roll it up with a gentle outward motion. The rolled dough will slowly lengthen. If it resists, cover and let it rest a few minutes. If you keep forcing it, it will tear and when baked, parts of the strand will break open. I’ve made many many mistakes including overproofing the braided loaf!


George bakes in Barbados's picture
George bakes in...

I think I just rushed it! I’m learning that with dough, patience is critical! Thanks so much :)