When you cut my challah, the knife cracks the lightly crisp crust, then glides through the soft, sweet-smelling, pale yellow crumb. You don't necessarily need something to go with challah: eaten by itself is quite satisfying.
If you pick up my copy of Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, it will open on page 94 where there is a folded sheet of paper as bookmark. A small cloud of flour will rise from the page, a consequence of its frequent use close to the mixing and kneading area.
I have tried a couple of other recipes for challah, but this one is the best: you can find the recipe on this page. The book has a number of other nice recipes, so you may want to consider getting your own copy.
I don't follow Reihart's recipe to the letter, but I don't stray too much from it. The original makes two large loaves like the one in the photo. I always halve the quantities and make one loaf. I often give half to a friend or I freeze it (wrapped first in plastic then in foil) and we enjoy the other half.
A summary of my adjustments (based on the quantities to make one loaf):
- 15 oz. of King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour + 2 oz. whole-wheat flour (from my grain CSA) instead of 17 oz. of bread flour
- .75 oz. / 20 g olive oil instead of 1.25 oz. vegetable oil
- .75 oz. / 20 g agave nectar instead of 1.5 oz.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
I get four egg yolks (tuorli) from making this cake. If they are not 3 oz. total, I break another egg, get as much yolk as I need from it, and use the rest for the glazing. Otherwise, I use a small whole egg for the glazing (diluted with water).
I usually decorate the top with a mix of 2 teaspoons sesame seeds (semi di sesamo) and 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (semi di papavero), but in the case shown in the photos I had just run out of poppy seeds, so I used only sesame.
The recipe includes instructions to make a 3-, 4-, 5-, or 6-braid challah. For a while, I made a five-strand one, but now I am into the six-strand one. The braiding is really the best part of making challah, followed by the glazing and decorating. Then, of course, there is the eating part.
One more thing I like about this recipe is that it uses delayed fermentation, so the work of making challah is divided into two parts: first you mix the dough (I do this by hand), then, after at least one night in the fridge, you shape, glaze, ferment, and bake the challah. Finally, you enjoy it, to the last crumb.
And one more thing: this challah is perfect for making French toast.
And I am submitting this recipe, bookmarked in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day, to Bookmarked Recipes #15, an event originally started by Ruth of Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments and now hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes. This post contains the roundup of the event.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the challah fatta in casa audio file [mp3].
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