Friday, January 9, 2009

Challah bread heaven

As I think I mentioned before, my kids attend a Jewish preschool. Every Friday, after Shabbat, the kids get Challah bread as their snack. Ainsley cannot eat traditional Challah bread because it sometimes contains dairy and always includes lots of eggs. (Here is a traditional challah recipe.)

In previous years, I sent Ainsley with a safe bagel on Fridays and she ate that while the other kids had the challah. However, this year, the mom of an egg-allergic child in Ainsley's class found a baker who agreed to supply the class with milk- and egg-free challah. Unfortunately, the baker just informed the school he won't be able to continue baking, so we are left in a lurch.

Since this was Ainsley's week to bring snacks for the class, yesterday I decided to make safe challah for the entire class to eat today. I have made whole wheat challah once before, using this recipe. It turned out great. For the class this week, though, I decided to be more traditional and make white-flour challah. I made it with this recipe, which is a recipe from Epicurious that I have doctored just slightly:

Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut/Sesame-Free Challah Bread (makes 2 loaves)

2 Tbl yeast (= 2 packets of yeast)
1 tsp sugar
2 C warm water (add more if necessary to make the dough pliable ... I added about 1/8 a cup more yesterday)
5 C white bread flour (I used King Arthur)
1 Tbl + 1 tsp salt
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/3 C honey

Dissolve the active dry yeast along with the sugar in the water in a large glass container. Mix and let sit about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour together with the salt. Add the yeast mixture, the vegetable oil, and the honey.

Work the ingredients together with your hands or a spoon; when they come together turn out on a floured board and knead with your hands until the dough becomes a smooth ball (I actually just kneaded the dough in the same large bowl that I mixed the ingredients in). Let rise on the board or in the bowl, covered, for two hours or so or until doubled.

Punch down and divide into 6 balls. Cover with a towel and let rise about an hour.

Roll each ball into a rope about 12 inches in length. To make each loaf, place 3 ropes side-by-side. Pinch together the top ends (wet the ends if necessary to help them stick together) and carefully braid the three, like you'd braid your hair. Pinch together the ends (again, wetting if necessary to help them stick together) and tuck them under the bread. Do the same with the remaining 3 ropes, so that you make 2 loaves total.

Transfer the loaves to a baking sheet and let it rise another 1/2 hour or so. Place the loaves in a preheated 375-degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes (until they are dark brown on the top and sound hollow when tapped). Cool the loaves on a wire rack.

You can also skip the braiding and just make 2-3 regular (everyday) bread loaves using loaf pans, or you can make rolls with it. It tastes good whatever you do!

Vegan Egg Wash Substitute
Note -- the only thing about this challah bread that makes it look different from regular challah is that you can't use an egg wash to make the top of the bread shiny like a traditional challah. I have experimented with several other techniques, like spraying the bread with olive oil before baking, putting a cornstarch slurry on it before and after baking, or putting apricot jam on it after baking. None of those techniques worked for me. The one thing that did was corn syrup and water. After the bread was out of the oven, I mixed about 1 Tbl corn syrup with 1 Tbl water. I then applied the mixture on top of the bread with a pastry brush. The result? Super shiny bread!

1 comment:

Nowheymama said...

Thank you for this recipe! I'm thinking of making Challah bread for our after-school church program.