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George Greenstein's Challah (P, TNT)
Source: "Secrets of a Jewish Baker," by George Greenstein
Yield: 2 loaves

1 cup warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 4-1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
Flour, for dusting the work top
Oil, for greasing the bowl
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash
Cornmeal, for dusting baking pan
Poppy or sesame seeds, for topping (optional)

In a large bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir to dissolve. Add the eggs, egg yolks, oil, sugar, 4 cups flour and salt. Stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work top and knead, adding more flour 1/4 cup if the dough is sticky or is soft. The dough should be firm. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and the gluten is well developed (10 to 15 minutes). When you push down, the dough should feel firm and push back.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turn to coat, and cover until the dough is tripled in volume, or when an indentation made with a finger punched down in the center of the dough remains and does not recede. This is a fully aged, or ready dough.

Punch down the dough, cut in half, cover, and allow to rise for 15 minutes. Punch down again and with the palms roll out into two ropes. Cut each into 6 equal pieces and braid or make up into a six section pan bread. Brush with the egg wash,using care to cover completely. Do not let excess egg drip into crevices.

Transfer the bread to a cornmeal-dusted baking pan.

Place in a warm, draft-free area preferably enclosed, and allow to rise until double in size.

You can also knead in some yellow raisins.

Baker's Secret:
Allow the bread to air dry, then brush a second time with the egg wash to give the bread its characteristic shine. Sprinkle lightly with poppy or sesame seeds if desired.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven on the middle shelf until the bread has a rich mahogany color and the bottom has a hollow sound when tapped lightly with your fingertips (about 35 minutes).

If the top begins to brown too excessively and the bottom is raw, cover the bread with a sheet of parchment paper or a brown paper bag that has been cut open and creased down the center to form a tent. If there is a white line visible between the braids, continue baking until it disappears. To test for doneness, press lightly between the braids on the highest part of the bread. It should be firm. If you feel the creases give when lightly pressed, continue baking until they firm up.

Let cool on a wire rack. Challah keeps very well for several days in the bread box. It can be frozen; defrost slowly, preferably wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

How to Shape a Turban or Round Challah
These breads are generally baked for the Jewish High Holidays. They are made from a single strand made up into a coil, which when baked rises into a turban-shaped bread.

Prepare one recipe and divide it into two (or three if you choose the final version). Roll each piece into a fat rope and allow to rest for several minutes. Leaving one end thick, roll once more with the palms, lengthening the strand and tapering the other end to a point. You should end up with 2 or 3 18-24" lengths, thick on one end and tapered to a point on the other end. Alternate between/among the strands to allow them to rest several minutes.

Take the lengthened strand and, keeping the wide end on the work top, with one hand lift the tapered end and wind the entire length around the wide center to form a coil. Slip the tip under under the coil and press down lightly so that it will not open upon rising. Brush with egg wash, place on cornmeal-dusted pans, proof until doubled in volume, and brush a second time before baking. Seeds for topping are optional. Bake as directed above.

Poster's Notes:
You can substitute all-purpose flour for the bread flour, but the bread will not come out as light or tender.

Posted by Susan Greene

Nutritional Info Per Serving: N/A