Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fancy Round Challah with Raisins

Fancy Round Challah with Raisins
From Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Rest time: minimum…2 hours on the counter or (and my favorite way) up to 5 days in a lidded but not air tight container in the fridge. (after that you can freeze in 1 lb/450g portions in air tight containers in the freezer for up to 4 weeks). If you are going to freeze the bread, you need to defrost in the fridge overnight
Shaping and second rising: 30 minutes
Baking time: 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf(ves)

Makes 4 (1lb/450g) loaves (I made two large loaves)

1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ tbsp granulated yeast (I used the one for the bread machine, because … that’s what I had)
1 ½ tbsp salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
½ cup honey
½ cup unsalted butter, melted (or canola oil) I tried it both ways and the one with butter tasted like brioche…both excellent variations.
7 cups unbleached all purpose flour (dough will be very sticky to work with. Just oil your hands)
½ - ¾ cup sultana raisins
Egg wash (1egg beaten with 1 tbsp water)

To mix & store the dough: I used my KitchenAid with dough hook attachment but you can use a 14 cup capacity food processor or a 5 litre/5 quart bowl and a wooden spoon. No kneading required!

1. Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter or oil with the water in the stand mixer or bowl. You can either add ¾ cup raisins at this point or wait until ready to make the bread. If you want to split the batch…some with raisin some without, then wait. If you are going to use the entire batch for fancy challahs, I’d mix them in at this point so the raisins can be more evenly distributed in the bread.

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, food processor or my favorite, the stand mixer. The food processor and mixer require the dough blade or dough hook.

3. Cover (not air tight) and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses – about 2 hours (you can bake the bread from this state) or let it “rest” in the fridge for up to 5 days. After that, you can freeze the dough in 1 lb/450g portions in an air tight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost the frozen dough overnight in the fridge before using. Allow the usual rest and rise time.

Baking the bread:
1. Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet: cover with parchment for easy cleanup or else lightly oil the pan.

2. Dust the surface of the refrigerated (or counter top) dough with flour and cut off a 1 lb piece (they say the size of a grapefruit, but if the recipe makes 4 loaves, just cut off a quarter of the dough. For dinner, I made 2 loaves out of the batch. Left overs make great toasted raisin bread.

3. Quickly (no more than a minute) shape the dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, sprinkling with more flour, rotating the ball quarter turns as you go. My version of shaping the dough is slightly different than the book’s. When I tried their approach the shape warped, so I used my daughter’s version. The butter dough is firmer to work with but if you oil your hands, the oil dough is fine too.

If you are adding raisins at this stage rather than when you made the dough:
Using minimal dusting flour and a rolling pin, roll out the dough to ½” thickness. Sprinkle with raisins and roll into a long rope.

If you are using dough prepared with raisins just shape into a long rope and continue at this stage:

Cut the log in half across and form a coil on the center of the baking sheet. (I have a very large baking sheet that can hold 2 large loaves diagonally leaving enough room between the loaves for rising in the oven). Elongate the second half into a more slender, longer rope. Tuck one end under the already formed coil and continue to make 1-2 rings around the first. Tuck in the loose end under the loaf.

4. Allow the dough to rest and rise, for 1 hour 30 minutes (you only need 40 minutes if you are using fresh unrefrigerated dough). If you are using the oil based dough, it will look wider than tall at this point, but don't worry, it will continue to rise in the oven.

5. 30 minutes before baking time, place a baking stone (I use my pizza stone) in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Don't worry if you don't have a stone, it will still work fine. Because this dough will not crisp like some of the French or rye breads, the oven doesn't need to heat as high to come out perfectly.

6. Just before baking, brush the challah with the egg wash.

7. Slide the baking sheet directly onto the hot stone. Bake for about 25-35 minutes. The loaf should be dark golden brown and the center resistant to pressure.

8. Allow it to cool before slicing.

Leftovers are great toasted with a slather of honey.

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