Friday, November 22, 2013

Challah Knots

As I was browsing through my collection of recipes looking for some sort of yeasted rolls to make, I ran across this recipe from Saveur magazine.  I’ve never made challah before so I thought I should remedy that ASAP.  I love working with yeast so I jumped at the chance to try my hand at this traditional Jewish egg bread.

This recipe is really very easy.  The ingredients are basic and are likely easily located in your cupboard.  If you’re accustomed to making yeast breads, the only difference here is that there are three rises or proofing periods rather than two, so plan an additional 45 minutes for the preparation.  The extra proofing helps to develop the flavor.  The shaping is a breeze and adds a bit of interest to the presentation.

These are fluffy rolls.  The use of water rather than milk and oil instead of butter makes them extra light.  They are a great accompaniment to a holiday meal or any time at all.

Bench notes:
- When dissolving or proofing yeast, use liquid temperatures of 110°F-115°F water.  It should be warm, not hot.
- The dough is very sticky so I added about 1 1/2 tablespoons more flour during the mixing and about another 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons in the kneading and shaping as I went along.  Add just a little bit at a time until it’s manageable. 
- Ideal rise temperature for yeast dough is between 80°F - 90°F.
- I lightly greased the pan and lined with parchment to prevent sticking.
- Everything you want to know about yeast from Red Star.
- Other really delicious yeast breads for this time of year: Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Yeast Bread and Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Rolls
- If you're looking for Thanksgiving treats, I've gotten a lot of great feedback and emails about my recent post, Pumpkin Pear & Pecan Streusel Cake.  I also highly recommend the Pumpkin Pie Pecan Squares.

Challah Knots
adapted from Saveur magazine
Makes 12 rolls

4 teaspoons active dry yeast                             
1 cup (8 oz) warm water                                                
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar  [I used 2 tablespoons (26 g) sugar + 2 tablespoons (28g) honey]         
1/4 cup (2 oz) canola oil  [I used olive oil]                             
4 egg yolks                                                  
3 1/4 cups (16 1/4 oz) flour  [I used about 2 - 3 tablespoons more]
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt  [I used a slightly generous 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt]

1 egg + 1 tablespoon water + slight pinch of salt for egg wash

Whisk the yeast, a pinch of sugar and 1 cup warm water (about 115°) to combine.  Set aside for 10 minutes.

Whisk the sugar, oil, egg yolks and salt with the yeast mixture and blend thoroughly.  Add flour and stir with a fork to form a dough.  Knead on a lightly floured work surface until smooth.  Lightly oil a wide bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning once to grease on both sides.  Cover with bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently press down the dough to release the gases.  Cover again and let sit for another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.   Lightly grease a 9” x 13” baking pan and line with parchment.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Form dough into twelve 10” long ropes.  Tie each rope into a knot, tucking both of the ends underneath.  Place in the prepared pan, leaving room to rise between each one.  Return to a warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes.  

Combine the remaining egg, water and slight pinch of salt for the egg wash. Brush the rolls generously (you’ll have a lot left over).  Bake until browned, about 20 – 22 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.


connie said...

What perfectly fluffy looking rolls! I love challah but I have a fear of baking bread. I think I really need to give these a shot, they look so good!

pastry studio said...

Hey, connie, these really are very easy to put together. Baking bread just takes some practice while you get the hang of how the dough should feel at each stage. The more you practice, the easier it becomes until one day, PRESTO! And the pleasure you get from making fresh bread, the aromas it brings to your kitchen and the great fresh baked taste - it's really fun. Give it a go and let me know if you have any questions!

Ben David said...

I see you've already used honey - my first big variation for challah.

Another variation is to switch out some of the oil for sesame oil - I use the oil I skim off raw tahini paste.

I also like this shaping option - according to Jewish law/tradition, we serve 2 whole loaves at each Sabbath meal - a memory of the double portion of manna that fell before the Sabbath. But it's often more useful to have individual rolls. It's also traditional for one "celebrant" to bless and tear/slice the challah ("breaking" bread...)

Baked this way, I can simply tear apart the rolls and pass them around. Thanks!

pastry studio said...

Ben David, thank you for sharing your family tradition and for your suggestion for a different oil. I hope you enjoy this shaping technique. It's easy and fun and certainly feels like "breaking bread"!

CarolMaeWY said...

I really liked the shaping technique. I've never been good at the old way. I made my dough the evening before and placed in refrigerator overnight. The next morning I shaped it and let rise again. That way we could have fresh out of the oven buns without me getting up so early.

pastry studio said...

Hello, CarolMae. So glad you gave these a try and they worked for you. The slower proofing overnight is a great alternative.

Very Happy New Year to you!