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Challah

Traditionally challah is any bread that is used in Jewish rituals and has taken on many forms over the years from rich Yemeni breads to Syrian pitas. It then evolved into this well-known fluffy, egg-rich bread from the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. It is traditional for Jewish bakers to burn a piece of dough before baking Challah as a form of spiritual observance. This reference to Moses giving out the ‘manna from heaven’ is not the only reference to scripture baked into this loaf – as the 12 ‘humps’ of braided dough represent the 12 tribes of Israel. This is a bread that throughout history has absorbed influences from its travels so is perfect for getting creative. Fresh or dried fruits, olives, cardamom, sweet dates, pistachio, rose water all add great flavour. You can also experiment with texture for the toppings - seeds, rose petals, nuts, a sticky honey glaze...the combinations are endless.

Time: 30 mins (prep), 2 hrs 30 mins (prove), 25 mins (cook)

Equipment: 1x large bowl, 1x rolling pin, 1x tea towel, 2x baking tray, 1x parchment paper, 1x pastry brush

Ingredients

  • 550g strong white flour
  • 7g dry yeast
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 15g fine salt
  • 60g olive oil
  • 275ml warm water

Toppings

  • 1 egg
  • sesame seeds
  • nigella seeds
  • date syrup
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 5 sprigs of lavender

Method

Step 1

Into a large bowl, add the dry ingredients leaving the salt to one side. Mix the dry together with one hand, making sure everything is combined well.

Step 2

Create a hole in the flour and add the wet ingredients into dry. Using one hand, mix the ingredients together creating a rough dough.

Step 3

Now is a good time to add the salt. Give it a good mix and then turn onto a clean surface.

Step 4

Knead your challah bread for 10 minutes. Then leave to proof.

Step 5

Divide the dough into 4 evenly sized pieces and then begin to shape the dough into a bowl.

Step 6

Cover the dough and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Step 7

Taking one of the dough balls, begin to stretch it. Then onto a clean surface begin to roll into an oblong shape. Now, roll from the long edge into a long sausage shape. Pinch the edge together to seal it.

Step 8

Roll the tube out making it longer, you will typically have a slightly fatter middle but don’t worry that is normal. Repeat across the remaining balls of dough.

Step 9

Now, with the 3 plaits, connect one end so all three meet. Grab the spring onions. Placing one strand on top of the other begin to plait the dough adding spring onions as you go. Place straight onto the tray. Cover the dough and leave to proof for one hour.

Step 10

Now let’s make our second challah with 4 plaits. When plating this 4 braided bread, bring the 4 strands together and then working from the right, lift the strand over and then under the other. Repeat across the braids adding the aromatics as you go.

Step 11

Leave both loaves to proof for 1 hour.

Step 12

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/392°F.

Now let’s add our washes. I'm using a traditional egg wash for one loaf and a date syrup with a splash of water for the other loaf.

Cover one loaf with sesame seeds and for the other loaf with date syrup I like to keep it as it is with some nigella seeds.

Step 13

Place into the hot oven and bake for 10 minutes at 200°C/392°F and then reduce to 180°C/356°F for a final 15 minutes.

Step 14

Give the bread a tap on the base and listen for a hollow sound. If you hear that, it's ready.

Step 15

And that's it, leave for 10 minutes and then enjoy.

Eyal's Notes

Step 1

Let’s add the salt later so we don’t kill our yeast.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and evenly so you achieve and even rise.

Step 2

Keep one hand clean and one hand wet when bringing any sort of dough together.

Step 3

Add the salt when the dough has started to come together.

Step 4

We want to knead the bread developing the gluten which will get the bread to stretch and become easier to stretch.

Step 5

Follow this step by step guide if you are unsure of the shaping technique:

  1. Bring the edges of the dough to the centre. Flip.
  2. Cup or surround the dough with one hand.
  3. Keep the dough surrounded and keep contact between your hands and the work surface at all times.
  4. Rotate the dough on one spot either anticlockwise or clockwise. Repeat for 10 - 20 seconds or until you have a smooth and taut top to your dough.

Step 6

The period of rest for 15 minutes is called bench rest, this helps strengthen the dough further.

Step 7

We want to roll this into a long tube shape.

Our doughs hydration will help us roll the dough as it sticks to the surface ever so slightly.

Step 8

Don’t worry about each of the braids of your challah being evenly sized. Get a lined tray of parchment paper ready.

Step 9

Get creative with different toppings and flavourings for your challah.

Step 10

We want to allow some space between the strands to allow for further growth during the next stage of proofing.

Add the herbs as you go tucking them under the braids as you go.

Step 11

Our dough will once again grow and develop flavour during this 3rd proofing.

Step 12

The date syrup will make our loaf really dark in colour - I love it.

Step 13

The hot oven starts to develop a crust on our bread and also give the bread an initial rise.

Step 14

"The hollow sound" - the reason bread sounds hollow and becomes light when picked up is due to the interior becoming fully set and the sponge becoming open. If your loaf is undercooked and feels heavy and dense, often the inside of the bread will still have a continuous gluten mass with air bubbles embedded into the raw dough.

Step 15

Enjoy with tahini and any of the dishes on the course.

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Eyal Jagermann
I think food is at its best when it’s fresh, simple...unpretentious. The most important thing? Ingredients - I am obsessed with quality.