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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Use these ingredients for preparing a basic challah dough by hand, by mixer, or by food processor, following the methods described below.
Prepared By Hand:
Challah dough is fun and easy to mix and knead by hand. As with all yeast doughs, the amount of flour needed to absorb the liquid varies with the humidity, the flour’s dryness, and the size of the eggs. But remember that bread dough is forgiving and works well in a wide range of flour to liquid ratios.
Do try to keep the dough soft. Although firm dough is easier to braid, soft dough gives the lightest, most delicious bread. Use this recipe or follow this method for any challah recipe.
1. Pour ¼ cup of the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the water and 1 teaspoon sugar over yeast. Let yeast mixture stand about 10 minutes or until foamy. Stir if not smooth. Oil a large bowl.
2. Sift 2¾ cups of the flour into a large bowl. Make large, deep well in center of flour. Add yeast mixture, remaining sugar, oil, eggs, remaining water, and salt to well. Mix ingredients in well with a wooden spoon until blended.
3. Mix in flour, first with a spoon, then by hand, until ingredients come together to form a dough. Dough should be soft and sticky. Knead dough vigorously on work surface until it is very smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes; during kneading, if it sticks to your fingers, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is no longer very sticky.
4. Put dough into oiled bowl and turn dough over to oil all surfaces. Cover with warm, slightly damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in warm draft-free area about 1 hour 15 minutes or until doubled.
5. Remove dough with rubber spatula to work surface. Knead dough lightly again about 30 seconds to knock out air. Clean bowl if necessary. Return dough to bowl, cover, and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
6. Shape and bake dough as desired (see recipes).
Prepared By Mixer:
Use a heavy-duty mixer with a dough hook for this recipe. It is the best and most efficient way to mix and knead large amounts of dough and to prepare doughs that are very sticky.
1. Pour ¼ cup of the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast into water, then sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar into yeast water. Let stand about 10 minutes or until foamy. Oil a large bowl.
2. Sift 2¾ cups flour into bowl of mixer fitted with dough hook. Make large, deep well in center of flour. Add yeast mixture, remaining sugar, oil, eggs, remaining water, and salt to well. Mix at medium-low speed, pushing flour in often at first and scraping dough down occasionally from bowl and from hook, until ingredients come together in a soft, sticky dough. Add remaining flour and beat until blended in.
3. Mix dough at medium speed to knead it, scraping down twice, about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and almost cleans sides of bowl. Pinch dough quickly; if it sticks to your fingers, beat in more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough is no longer very sticky. If you add flour, mix at medium speed about 2 minutes. Dough should be soft, smooth, and elastic.
4. Put dough into oiled bowl and turn dough over to oil all surfaces. Cover with warm, slightly damp towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in warm draft-free area about 1¼ hours or until nearly doubled.
5. Knead dough lightly in bowl to knock out air. Cover and let rise again about 1 hour or until nearly doubled.
6. Shape and bake dough as desired (see recipes).
Prepared by Food Processor:
I love making challah dough in the food processor because it is so quick and easy and produces very good results. In fact, the dough is mixed and kneaded in less than three minutes! Naturally, the amount you can make is limited by the size of your food processor.
I use a medium-size (10- to 12-cup capacity) food processor to mix this dough, which is enough for
1 medium loaf.
If you are in a hurry, you can skip the dough’s second rising; the loaf won’t be quite as light but it will still taste good.
1. Pour ¼ cup of the water into small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over yeast. Let stand about 10 minutes or until foamy. Stir if not smooth. Oil a large bowl.
2. Fit food processor with dough blade. Combine 2¾ cups flour and remaining sugar in food processor. Process briefly to mix. Add yeast mixture, oil, eggs, and salt. With blades of processor turning, pour in remaining water. Process until ingredients come together to form a soft dough; it will not form a ball. Process for about 30 seconds to knead dough. Pinch dough quickly; if it sticks to your fingers, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is no longer very sticky. Knead again by processing about 30 seconds or until smooth.
3. Remove dough from processor and shape it into a rough ball in your hands. Put dough into oiled bowl and turn dough over to oil all surfaces. Cover with warm, slightly damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in warm draft-free area about 1 hour 15 minutes or until doubled.
4. Remove dough with rubber spatula to work surface. Knead dough lightly again about 30 seconds to knock out air. Clean bowl if necessary. Return dough to bowl, cover, and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Shape and bake dough as desired (see recipes).
Hand-Kneading Bread Dough:
You can knead bread dough in a mixer with a dough hook or in a food processor. If you are making the dough by hand, there are two basic techniques for kneading it: the slapping method, used for soft doughs; and the conventional bread dough method, pushing with your palms.
Since challah dough is quite soft when I knead it by hand, I prefer the slapping method, which I learned in France. With this method, you end up adding less flour and the dough stays softer, resulting in a bread that is more moist. If you are used to the conventional method or feel more comfortable with it, however, you can use it. Bagel dough is firmer than challah dough and works equally well by either method.
Slapping Method of Kneading:
With the dough on the work surface, place your hands next to each other on top of the dough, holding it lightly in your fingertips. Pull up the dough and slap it vigorously onto the work surface. Grasp the dough again at a different place, and repeat. Continue slapping dough, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to prevent excessive sticking, until the dough is smooth and elastic and holds together in one piece. It’s all right if the dough is still slightly sticky but it should be much less sticky than it was before kneading. Be sure to handle the dough lightly and quickly so it does not stick much to your fingers.
Conventional Method of Kneading:
Put the dough on the work surface. Push the dough away from you against the work surface with the palm of your hand. Turn the dough, fold its top third down toward you, and push it again. Continue kneading the dough, flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent excessive sticking, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
For these and all yeast dough recipes, you can use fresh yeast: 1 cake fresh yeast (3/5 ounce) is the equivalent of ¼-ounce envelope (2½ teaspoons) of dry yeast. Crumble the fresh yeast into the water, sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the mixture, stir, then let stand for 10 minutes.
Since homemade breads do not contain preservatives, they taste best when served fresh. This is true for challah, rolls, bagels, and pita bread, but if they are well wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature, they also taste very good the following day. After two days their quality is acceptable if they are toasted or heated slightly, but if you know you’re not going to eat them after one day, freeze them.
The smaller a bread is, the faster it dries out. Naturally, sliced breads dry much faster than whole loaves.
I slice whole loaves before freezing them so they can be heated easily in the toaster.
Nutrients per serving (% daily value)
Nutritional information is based on 16 servings.
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