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Bee

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PostSubject: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:12 pm

Anyone? I need a fool proof recipe for two people, I have tried recipes with eggs and without. Most recipes are for large groups and I cut the ingredients so we don't waste it. But I notice my hubby will not touch his piece of bread after he takes a portion for blessings and takes a small bite, occasionally offer to stop at the store on his way home on Fridays and buy bread. He will compliment bread I make with store premade dough... I thought I was improving but I guess not. I would appreciate ideas and if you can relate and how you solved it. Thanks :-)
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:49 pm

I and my kids are extremely lucky (and spoiled!) because my husband loves to bake challah from scratch and has perfected it over move than 20 years of baking for nearly every Shabbat. Plus he has a job that allows him to often work from home on Fridays. I will post his "fool proof' recipe and directions later when I have time to re-format it from the pdf from our minyan cookbook.

Since the ingredients for bread are simple, I think the key is technique. I am curious about the "no-knead" recipes that call for extended rest and rise times, but I've never tried them because I have my husband to make challah for me. For traditional bread recipes, it is very important to do a very thorough job of kneading. Note that this is not just "mixing" the ingredients, but repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough to create long strings of gluten molecules which give the bread its texture. That's why bread like challah is different from batter breads. You also need to make sure that you have good and active yeast. For the best bread, the right amount of rise time matters too. My husband was dissatisfied with a recent batch because he got busy with his work and let the final rise go a little too long. The bread still tasted great, but the loaves got a little flattened out.

I recently noticed that we have too many challahs in our big chest freezer when I was trying to make room for a big Kol Foods organic kosher meat order that my husband made. So I'll probably ask him not to bake a fresh batch tomorrow and I'll use some for French toast or bread pudding. Hmm... made I'll make bread pudding for the Yom Kippur potluck break-fast or whichever minyan sukkah potluck we go to.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:07 pm

Oh, oh oh...my breads have come out like bricks and others bubbly and flat. I thought I was not putting enough yeast then not rising enough, I tried adding more sugar to make it taste better...but never thought of pulling it for texture, not sure what that means but I look forward to pdf file, I could use a bread machine but I want to hand down Shabbat traditions for our future children...I would at least want to be able to do challah bread, I just cannot move on and settle for challah that could be used as manhole covers or pave a drive way.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: kneading dough   Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:26 pm

Ah, there's your problem then. You need to put in considerable physical effort to properly knead dough (there is a really amusing scene in the movie "La Cage Aux Folles" where the drag queen decides that it is too physically demanding to be a woman in Italy where he is becoming exhausted from doing things like kneading dough). Kneading is essential for traditional yeast bread. You can also use a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, which is what my husband usually does at home, but most non-industrial-strength mixers won't do a proper job regardless of the "dough kneading" attachments it may come with because their motors are not powerful enough for the job.

Do a Goggle search on "kneading dough" and you will find YouTube videos and descriptions with photos. There are also related videos on all other aspects of bread-making such as "proofing" the yeast.

http://www.wisegeek.com/why-do-you-need-to-knead-bread-dough.htm
Quote :
While the practice of kneading bread dough is well established, people who do not engage in making bread from scratch do not always understand that it is essential to knead bread dough if the bread is to turn out as described in the recipe. Here are some facts about kneading dough, and what takes place during the process.

One of the most important things that takes place during the knead process is the development of gluten. As the flour that makes up the dough is moistened and stirred, the gluten begins to form and also gains in strength as the dough is subjecting to the kneading process. Gluten can be thought of as the binding agent within the dough, allowing the loaf to take on a cohesive texture that will allow the substance to not fall apart during baking. The presence of the gluten also sets the stage for another good reason to knead bread dough when making fresh bread at home.

As the gluten is acting as a binding agent, it is also helping to create small air pockets of bubbles in the dough. This is very important, as these bubbles are necessary to allow for the formation of small pockets of carbon dioxide as the dough is rising. The carbon dioxide is created by the interaction of the yeast with the other ingredients in the recipe. By filling the small air pockets in the structure of the dough, the bread has a chance to rise and become supple enough to result in a loaf of bread that is light, flavorful, and airy.

When deciding to knead bread dough, it is important to remember that the process needs to take place for at least eight to ten minutes. Typically, this is enough time to create the appearance and texture that is specified by the recipe. Of course, the best gauge is the recipe itself. If the dough does not quite seem to have the appearance suggested by the recipe, then try kneading for a few more minutes. Generally, people tend to knead bread dough for too short a period of time, which can mean the yeast does not interact with the mixture as it should, the bread will not rise properly.

One by-product of choosing to knead bread dough is that the activity is really fine exercise. Bakers have a chance to work their upper body muscles, and gain some mental satisfaction from the process as well. While neither of these two perks of kneading dough have any bearing on the flavor or texture of the bread, they often are quite beneficial to the temperament of the baker.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:44 pm

Hmm, sometimes my bread comes out good...only to me ;-( , but none of the recipes ever mentioned how to kneading it or how long. My most recent book is great with step by step pictures and prayers...but it forsaking from one picture of a messy bowl to it in a large dough ball for rising, I put the oven on then turn it off so its warm and I put it in there to rise, I got that online but it sometimes makes a hard shell. Growing up I was taught to make homade tortillas...always failed there and and secretly used a knife to cut them into circles because they came out in animal shapes. Even then my parents decided to get me a baking book, after I made a home made pie with raw bottom crust and cooked top...I was banned from the stove.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Sep 22, 2011 4:53 pm

You have to keep the dough moist for the initial risings. If you use a warm oven for the risings before braiding, you should have the dough in a large, preferably deep, bowl and you should cover the top of the bowl with a wet cloth.
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Sun Sep 25, 2011 12:29 am

ummm...that is what I needed. After so many attempts, some success but mainly failures...I have finally come close to what is considered bread! I pulled and pulled while my arms burned like on fire...I did not give up, and pulled that dough a million times. I even braided it this time...it was a thing of beauty!!! It still was flat so I will work on it not rising too long like you suggested, and my hubby took a bite and said he was full and asked that I make biscuits and gravy with it for breakfast so we don't waste it...but hey...I loved it!!! Getting good at this...well thats my goal.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Sun Sep 25, 2011 2:20 pm

I've never made challah. Does it have to be pulled by hand?
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Sun Sep 25, 2011 2:54 pm

Traditional yeast bread needs to be "kneaded" which is not just pulling, but a process of working the dough in which the dough is folded onto itself repeatedly to work air into it and part of the action does do some stretching, but it's not like say pulling taffy.

When I was a teenager, I worked for a summer at a pizza parlor. The dough for the pizza crust was made in a giant Hobart mixer. "Hobart" is the industrial brand name and "Kitchen Aid" is the home brand name but both are made by the same company. The Hobart mixer works the same, as the Kitchen Aid mixer I have at home, except that it is much, much larger. The one at the pizza place was about 4 feet tall. Hobart/Kitchen Aid mixers have an attachment called a "dough hook" which mechanically kneads dough by repeatedly grabbing the dough and smushing it against the side of the bowl.

Here's a video (made by the company that makes my husband's favorite yeast) that shows both a Kitchen Mixer kneading with a dough hook and then demonstrates and explains how to knead by hand:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9KX4KFBj5w&feature=related
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PostSubject: Joshua’s Physicist-Proof Challah   Sun Sep 25, 2011 3:13 pm

Joshua’s Physicist-Proof Challah
[Pareve/Dairy] (so simple even a quantum mechanic can do it)

1 package active dry yeast (I like Fleischmann’s; if there is any difference
between the fastacting and the regular kind, you can’t prove it by me)
1/3 stick unsalted butter (or use margarine, but less salt)
3 eggs
4 Tablespoons honey (or 3 Tablespoons of white sugar instead, if you prefer)
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups unbleached white flour (roughly: see directions to get amount right)
water, as detailed below
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Needed equipment:
Big microwaveable measuring cup (2 cup Pyrex is what I use)
Smaller measuring cup (1 cup Pyrex, or whatever)
4 quart pot
KitchenAid mixer with bread hook attachment (or knead by hand; this won’t
work with a cheap mixer)
Microwave oven; conventional oven and range
Flat place to roll dough (use the baking pan if you must)
Baking pan or cookie sheet
Pastry brush or clean 1-inch paintbrush {Debbie's note: most pastry brushes
are boar bristle, so we use a brush with nylon hairs that we bought at the
hardware store and which was sold as paintbrush.}

Put a 3- or 4-quart pot of water on to boil. Zap 1/4 cup of water in small
Pyrex for 13 seconds in microwave, to just above blood warm. Drop in yeast
package and set aside. Put 3/4 cup of water in big Pyrex; add butter, honey,
and salt. Zap for 2 minutes, until hot enough to melt butter. Dump buttery
water into mixer bowl. Add 2 cups of flour; start bread hook slowly, just to
stir. Batter must cool to blood warm, not hot, before other ingredients go in.
By now the pot of water is boiling. Slide it into a cool oven; take off lid;
close oven. You now have a warm, moist place that will stay that way for
hours perfect for bread to rise. {Debbie's note: The problem with this method
is that if used often, it will cause metal parts of the inside of your oven to rust.
Gas ovens usually kept mildly warm by the pilot light, which is perfect unless
you keep your house extremely cold. We happen to have a fancy electric
oven with a low heat "proof" setting that my husband uses now.}

Yeast should be alive and bubbling happily (if not, send it to olam haba
and start a new batch). Toss it in the mixer; rinse small Pyrex. Reserve part
of 1 egg yolk into that Pyrex, with a teaspoon of water; stir; set aside for
glaze. The rest of 3 eggs go into the mixer, and 2 more cups of flour. Mix
until it’s a thick, smooth batter. The last 2 cups of flour require judgment;
temperature, humidity, and the size of the eggs will vary the result. As the
kneading continues, add 1 cup, then the last cup a quarter at a time. You’ve
hit it when the dough just barely pulls off the bottom of the bowl; if it pools
at the bottom, you need more flour, but if it breaks up into dry bits or seems
tough, you’ve overshot (correct with a teaspoon of water). Now sit back and
let the mixer do the work, about 6 minutes with a KitchenAid, or 12-15 minutes
with enthusiastic hands.

Throw the whole bowl into the warm moist oven. Come back in 90 to 120
minutes. Punch down. If Shabbat isn’t crowding you, give it another hour, and
punch it down a second time. Lightly flour a baking tray, and dump out the
dough. Get it floury on all sides, so it doesn’t stick. Break it in two, repeatedly:
eight little balls for two big loaves, or sixteen for two little loaves and two to
freeze for next week. Roll each ball into a worm, tapered at both ends: about 18
inches long for big challot, or 12 inches for ‘just the family’ size. Four worms to
a challah; join 1 & 3 by the tail, and 2 & 4. The braid is the same as a havdalah
candle: under two, then back over one, first from one side, then the other. Don’t
pull the bottom tight; you want it to spread out flat and wide underneath.

Let finished loaves rise for one more hour, two if you’ve got time. Preheat
oven to 350 degrees (make sure pot of water is out!) while you paint your loaves
with egg glaze. Add seeds if you like them. Bake for 25-30 minutes for 4 small
challot (two baking sheets), or 35-40 minutes for two big ones. Cleanup: the
mixer bowl, the brush, the bread hook, two Pyrex cups, a baking sheet, and the
knife you cut the butter with. (Debbie’s job. Really, though, this is about the
least messy bread recipe I know of.)

Makes 4 small challot, on two baking sheets, or 2 big on one sheet.

{Debbie's note: Challah freezes quite well. Let cool completely, then seal in a ziplock
and put into the freezer. When you want to eat the frozen ones, take right from the
freezer and place in a 350 degree oven for about 7-9 min (depending on challah size).
Since making our kitchen strictly kosher, my husband makes only pareve challah
because we didn't notice any real taste difference and then we needed only one dough
hook. Pareve challah that we keep in the freezer can also be eaten with any meal.}
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:13 am

Uh..its not Bee proof. That is complicated to me...and it probably makes the best challah bread...baby steps for me. I will work up to this ;-) My challah recipe is water,oil,flour, dry yeast, sugar, salt mix all together ...I used a bowl this time and pulled it like taffi but the texture was like a heavy thick bread which before it seriously was as if you baked a playdough preschool project. I keep reading that recipe above...I have to try it! It could be the one. It has more or different ingredients and instructions ...punch it down? What does that do? It must make a huge difference because just pulling the dough did for my bread. I decided to make the holiday challah since my Shabbos one came out good.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:57 am

Well, my husband's challah recipe is definitely aimed at nerds like himself Laughing

Did you "proof" the yeast to make sure it was alive and "active" enough? My husband has had bad yeast before. Once we got several bad packets from the same store, so I think the whole case must have been allowed to be in a very hot truck too long or something to kill all the yeast. If it doesn't bubble in a lukewarm sugar bath, then it won't be able to make your dough rise well enough to be nice and puffy.

Did you watch a video to get the kneading technique down? It's not quite "pulling", but more of a fold and squish action. Also, after the kneading, it has to rise three separate times. You have to let it rise the first time, and then "punch it down" which means to literally punch it so that it deflates and sinks down. Then it has to rise a second time which also sets up the gluten to give the bread structure. It will collapse again when you take out the dough to braid it, but you can't braid it until after the second rise. And then you let the dough rise a third time in its braided form before finally baking.

It sounds like your issues were definitely lack of technique more than incorrect ratios of ingredients.
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:21 am

You'll get the hang of it, Bee. It just takes a little practice.

I've been making challah for a few months with my daughter. We make it on Sunday and freeze for the next Shabbat. The recipe I use is pretty close to Debbie's, but I use a bit more honey and do all the kneading by hand; the kids like it a little sweeter. Even my wife approves of my baking, and that's saying something! Wink and Smile
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:00 am

Well I definitely had been blaming recipes, but its techniques for sure. I am self taught and thanks to you now have an understanding (& appreciation) on baking bread that's not from a tube. Now I know why its been a hit or miss with my challah...but I won't count my chickens until I make good challah 3 times in a row.(:-D)
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:34 pm

Debbie B. wrote:
Hobart/Kitchen Aid mixers have an attachment called a "dough hook" which mechanically kneads dough by repeatedly grabbing the dough and smushing it against the side of the bowl.

I have the Kitchen Aid dough hook so I was just wondering if that could be used or if it had to be done by hand. If I were Bee I'd go ahead in invest in something like that if I were going to be making challah every week. I think the Kitchen Aid mixers go on sale in the late fall/winter months for all the Holidays. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:37 pm

James wrote:
Even my wife approves of my baking, and that's saying something! Wink and Smile

Laughing
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:19 pm

Lol Dena, for the sake of my hubby I better Heheee. In California we were spoiled to have access to pastry shops buy our fresh bread, a nice wine or sourdoughs, Mexican bakeries that go around delivering fresh breads to our home, here its doughnuts or muffins. To get real baked challah I have to travel across 3 towns and buy it from a Texas chain store that gets it from New York, its the only store that carries a kosher area smaller than my closet. Even the new bagel cafe that took five years to take (Thx to us Californians) which we figured would be kosher like the ones in NorCal...had bacon and sausages!! Not even salmon!!! They had no choice I guess, you gotta survive out here where locals shoot wild boars in their backyards and ring the bell for breakfast (sadly my husband is guilty of doing this once...I made it a point to make it his last).
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:48 pm

Kitchenaid mixers are the best and worth the money even though they are expensive (about $200 for a 4.5 quart size). They are also superb at whipping cream or egg whites due to the whip attachment design and the special planetary rotary motion.

I have a friend who got a 40-year old hand-me-down KA mixer from her aunt that was still working!

Our mixer gets such a workout that twice in the past decade my husband has taken it for repair at some special KA refurbishing plant (it's like a 45 min drive away, so he tries to do it when he has a business trip out that way). But our mixer is 24 years old and going strong.

But you don't need a KA mixer to make good challah. My husband makes challah with old-fashioned kneading by hand when visiting friends or when our mixer is in the repair shop.
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 3:15 pm

My aunt waited for a sale last year and also had a coupon for a department store. She was able to get a brand new Kitchen Aid for a very good price. Mine was a gift but I think it was also purchased for a good price around this time. I LOVE the whipping attachment. I've made several things I probably would have never made without it. Okay, I sound like a Kitchen Aid advertisement. Back to the challah topic. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:54 pm

On commission huh? Laughing
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:52 pm

I punched my challah twice yesterday and my bread is improving! I could actually squeeze it and it gave!!!! My hubby ate half of one ....yes! This morning I made French toast and he thanked me....whoooohoooo!!! Thanks guys...it is technique that I was missing, wow all my cookbooks did not mention this crucial part. I guess they assume? Thumps Up
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:55 pm

Now once I get a kitchen aide machine, and my newly learned techniques....I will be unstoppable!
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:11 pm

My favorite challah resource, by far--this blog written by a cantor's wife: The Challah Blog. Search there for: the pizza challah; the chocolate challah; and their basic family recipe.

My favorite holiday challah: this honey-raisin challah from King Arthur Flour. I doctor it by using the method, cooking temperature, and cooking length from the Challah Blog basic family challah and I braid it as a round loaf (see this video on YouTube). They've been a big hit this year with--well with me(!), my boyfriend, and synagogue friends who raved over it at Rosh Hashanah dinner. (In fact, we're bringing one to a friend's house tonight for dinner in the sukkah.)

It's also my minhag to take challah (I love this part!), no matter how many pounds of flour I am using. (Your halachic mileage here may vary.)
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PostSubject: Re: fool proof challah recipe   Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:12 pm

Bee wrote:
Now once I get a kitchen aide machine, and my newly learned techniques....I will be unstoppable!

If you get the lowest end Kitchen-Aid (the "Classic"), you'll have to hold onto the machine so it doesn't jump around when it's kneading heavy doughs like challah. Our Classic bounces around like a bronco if you don't hold it firmly down. Otherwise works great, though.
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