Thursday, January 15, 2009

Challah

Challah

I decided that since it will be a nice long weekend, I will spend one of the days baking. Now the BF requested pasta so it looks like I will also be making red sauce. I told him to get me a #10 can of crushed tomatoes.

One of my friend's started making these no knead bread recipes. She did cinnamon rolls and challah. I was inspired. I wanted to make challah but not the no knead way. Maybe I'll try it one day but I still believe that good bread must have good strands of gluten formation and those good strands are created by kneading.

I've only made challah once before in my intro to baking 101 while at Johnson & Wales. I usually have no patience for real baking, especially yeasted breads and piped frostings and icing. Oh I think royal icing is fascinating but I have no patience to pipe it. Royal icing is best applied with a dinner knife or rubber spatula.

We managed to make some decent baked goods in class despite the time we altitude adjusted the pie crust recipe. We had a team project. Each team had to bake a pie, a cookie, a cheesecake, a laminated dough, and a quick bread. The recipes were chosen for us. I think we had apple pie, peanut butter cookies, raspberry cheesecake, croissants, and corn bread. The project taught us teamwork, teahnique, and timing. When we got our recipes we had to come up with a game plan. I thought I was so clever. I said we must first do the conversions to yield the correct amount and we must altitude adjust. Everyone grab a recipe of two and started working on it. Someone in my group altitude adjusted the pie crust recipe. Pie crusts do not need to be adjusted since there is no leavening. During our spare time (while we were waiting for the butter layer to chill in the laminated dough) we had to work on our Challah.

I couldn't find chef Kramer's challah recipe. I believe we used Chef Kramer's recipe or maybe we used the Johnson & Wales one. I looked up some recipes and ended up using a combination of Peter Reinhart's recipe in The Bread Maker's Apprentice and the recipe in the Johnson & Wales Culinary Fundamentals book.

I'm planning on baking on Saturday with my friend Lisa. Of course I have to try out the recipe before the actual baking day. I baked Pandesal and Challah tonight. The pandesal post will have to come later. This was my first time making pandesal and although they were quite yummy, I still need to work on the shaping. There is also an off flavor that I cannot seam to figure out. I want my pandesal exactly like the ones at Valerio's. Maybe Valerio's uses AP flour and not bread flour.

I'm fairly happy with the results of the challah. Honestly I was expecting a dense loaf. I've tried baking bread at home a long long time ago and we used Red Star yeast from Costco. I was never happy with the results. I'm not sure if it was the yeast or my kneading skills. I am starting to have arthritis in my fingers so kneading is difficult for me. I did make Parker House Rolls for Thanksgiving and they turned out okay. They did not rise as much as I wanted them to but they were still soft and had they best flavor.

Back to the challah. The appearance of my homemade challah is not like the ones we made at Johnson & Wales. I swear it is the oven. When I grow up I will have one of those ovens just like at Johnson & Wales. Oh I will also have a huge Hobart mixer. Look at the two photos below. The first is the one our group made in class. We did a plain, a plain with poppy seeds on top, and a raisin one. Just look how perfect they looks.



My attempt tonight looks like this:


Oh the pink lining is one of my new silicone baking pads. I don't acutally own a silpat. Just a bunch of these silicone pads. I actually prefer them to parchment paper. No waste and they do a better job of preventing burnt bottoms.


They don't look bad but the way they baked up do not look as nice as the ones made in the good oven. The browning is not as even and the crust is crustier (if that makes any sense). I tasted a slice tonight and the texture was good. I can't tell you whether or not I liked the taste since I had just finished three of the pandesals that I also baked today. I read that malt syrup gives bread a distinct flavor. The Johnson & Wales recipe used malt syrup and honey. The Bread Baker's Apprentice didn't use either. He used sugar. Oh I also added a little vital wheat gluten for a little extra gluten to help me with the kneading.

Challah
Adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice & Johnson & Wales Culinary Fundamentals

Ingredients:

4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon (.25 ounce) salt
1-1/3 teaspoons (.15 ounce) instant yeast
½ teaspoon dough enhancer (I was looking for dough conditioner but could only get enhance locally. They serve the same purpose but the ingredients are different.)
2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) vegetable oil
2 large (3.3 ounces) eggs, slightly beaten
2 large (1.25 ounces) egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp to 1-1/8 cups (7 to 9 ounces) water, warm (original recipe says room temp but I found that a little warm water helps dissolve the honey and the malt syrup. Also found that the yeast was a lot happier in my pandesal recipe since I I used milk that I heated in the microwave for about a minute.)
1 drop yellow food coloring
¼ cup honey (I like local honey since it is supposed to help with my allergies.)
½ teaspoon malt syrup
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish

Instructions:

Stir together the flour, salt, yeast, dough enhancer, and vital wheat gluten in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and yolks, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, food coloring, honey, and malt syrup. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon (or on low speed with the paddle attachment) until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add the remaining water, if needed.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead for about 10 minutes (or mix at medium-low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should register approximately 80°F (27°C).

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a boule and transfer into the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment for 1 hour at room temperature.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to degas. Re-form it into a ball, return the ball to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1-1/2 times its original size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 3 equal pieces for 1 large loaf, or 6 pieces for 2 loaves. (Or, for a celebration challah, divide it into 3 equal pieces and combine 2 of those pieces and form them into 1 large dough. Take this larger piece and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take the smaller dough and divide it into 3 pieces as well; in the end, you will have 3 large pieces and 3 small pieces.) Regardless of the size of the loaves you decide to make, form each of the pieces into a boule, cover them with a towel, and let them rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pieces into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid them using the 3-braid method shown. (If making the celebration challah, lay the smaller braid on top of the larger braid, gently pressing the smaller braid onto the larger to adhere.) Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and transfer the loaf or loaves to the pan. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan in a food-grade plastic bag.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the dough has grown to 1-1/2 times its original size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) (325°F (160°C) for the celebration challah) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. The bread should be a rich golden brown and register 190°F (88°C) in the center.

When done, transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

Yield: Makes 1 large braided loaf, 2 smaller loaves, or 1 large double-braided celebration loaf

Overall I do like the recipe and will have to try it without the malt syrup and dough enhancer to see if it makes much of a difference. The dough enhance and the honey is supposed to keep the bread fresher longer. I'm not sure if that is all that important since any stale challah will most definitely become my favorite challah french toast.

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