THE SHABBAT TABLE: HEALTHY CHALLAH IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY

THE SHABBAT TABLE: HEALTHY CHALLAH IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY

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Challah

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! For me, it doesn’t feel like Shabbat unless there’s challah on the table.

I was delighted to discover theses healthier versions of challah in the revised and updated edition of The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by national best-selling authors, Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois (Thomas Dunne Books/November 2016).

According to cookbook author and baking maven Dorie Greenspan, “They’ve incorporated years of readers’ questions, problems, and discoveries into every chapter. This is truly the all-you’ve-ever-wanted-to-know edition. And there are plenty of photographs.”

Jeff Hertzerg and Zoë François have proved to the baking world that homemade yeast dough could be stored in the refrigerator to use whenever you need it. In their long-awaited second edition, they showcase whole grains and heirloom flours such as spelt and sprouted wheat. Also new in this edition are a super-fast natural sourdough, weight equivalents for every dough recipe, and intriguing new oils, such as coconut, avocado, grapeseed and flaxseed.

READ MORE: THE SHABBAT TABLE: A FRUITFUL TU B’SHVAT/SHABBAT

The authors show their readers how to make a large batch of dough and store it for up to a week, so you do the work on one day for several loaves – with just five minutes a day of active preparation time. Visit Jeff and Zoë where the authors answer readers’ questions and post new recipes and photos.

The two following challah-licious recipes have been adapted from The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Enjoy your Shabbos without guilt – Shabbat Shalom!!


BRAIDED CHALLAH WITH WHOLE WHEAT AND WHEAT GERM

Here’s a delicious and nutritious braided loaf, with all the classic flavors of challah: eggs, poppy seeds, and honey with a little nutty flavour from wheat germ, which also adds vitamin E and other nutrients. If you’re avoiding butter, then vegetable oil (including coconut oil), makes a great challah. If you go with coconut oil or butter, you’ll need to melt it in the microwave or on the stovetop first.

If you’re an old hand at baking challah with traditional dough, you’ll notice that this version creates a gorgeous loaf, but the strands sometimes separate from the center, and this is more of a problem with larger loaves. This is normal.

Makes enough dough for at least 5 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

5 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 Tbsp granulated yeast

1 Tbsp kosher salt (can increase or decrease to taste)

1/4 cup vital wheat gluten

3 cups lukewarm water

1/4 cup vegetable oil, olive oil, or melted unsalted butter or coconut oil

1/2 cup honey

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water), for brushing on the loaf

Poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

  1. Mixing and storing the dough: Whisk together the flours, wheat germ, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Combine the liquid ingredients and mix them with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine.
  3. Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Or store the dough for up to 2 weeks in the freezer in 1-pound portions. When using frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before use, then allow the usual rest/rise time.
  5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.
  6. Gently roll and stretch the dough, dusting with flour so your hands don’t stick to it, until you have a long rope about 3/4-inch thick. You may need to let the dough relax for 5 minutes so it won’t resist your efforts. Using a dough scraper or knife, make angled cuts to divide the rope into 3 equal-length strands with tapering ends.
  7. Braiding the challah: Starting from one end of the loaf, pull the left strand over the center strand and lay it down; always pull the outer strands into the middle, never moving what becomes the center strand.
  8. Now pull the right strand over the center strand. Continue, alternating outer strands but always pulling into the center. When you get to the end, pinch the strands together.
  9. If the braid is oddly shaped, fix it by nudging and stretching. Place the braid on a greased cookie sheet or one prepared with parchment or a silicone mat, and allow it to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap or an overturned bowl, for 90 minutes (or 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
  10. Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven. If you’re not using a stone in the oven, a 5-minute preheat is adequate.
  11. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash (see below if you prefer a super-shine on your challah), and then sprinkle the crust with poppy seeds.
  12. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, or until browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking times.
  13. Allow the challah to cool on a rack before slicing.

Getting a super-shine on challah: If you follow the egg wash-painting directions exactly, you’ll get a lovely loaf and the seeds will stick securely, but it won’t be that shiny. If you want a shiny result, paint the top crust with egg wash twice. First, apply a coat and let it dry for 15 minutes. Then, just before baking, paint it again and then sprinkle on the seeds.


100% WHOLE WHEAT CHALLAH WITH NO ADDED GLUTEN

The reason so many 100% whole grain challah recipes fail is that eggs have a surprising effect on baked bread dough. Everyone thinks that they’ll add moisture, but in fact, eggs can have the opposite effect if you’re not careful. Biochemists tell us that when egg dough is baked, the long protein strands in egg (albumen) actually curl, tighten, and contract, squeezing out of the matrix. So one important word of advice when making this challah: bake it fully, but don’t overbake it. This might take a bit of practice with your particular oven, so be sure yours runs accurately with an oven thermometer (see Baking Equipment, below).

Butter in challah is delicious, but the vegetable oils work nicely, including coconut oil, which also lends a wonderful flavour. If you go with coconut oil, you’ll need to melt it in the microwave or on the stovetop first (just like butter), and be aware that dough made with coconut oil will seem firmer than dough made with the other fats. Don’t worry – it bakes up beautifully.

And if you decide you’d like a higher rise, you can experiment with adding 1/4 cup of vital wheat gluten, and increase the water 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

Makes enough dough for at least four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

7 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

1 Tbsp granulated yeast

1 Tbsp kosher salt (can increase or decrease to taste)

2 1/4 cups lukewarm water

3/4 cup honey

1/2 cup vegetable oil, olive oil, or melted unsalted butter or coconut oil

4 large eggs, at room temperature

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water)

Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for sprinkling on top crust

Oil, butter, or parchment paper for the baking sheet

Follow the directions for Braided Challah with whole Wheat and Wheat Germ (above).

Baking Equipment:

A 5- to 6-quart storage container or bucket with a lid – plastic, glass, stainless steel, crockery, or even a soup pot: You can mix and store the dough in the same vessel – this will save you from washing one more item (it all figures into the five minutes a day). Look for a food-grade container that holds 5 or 6 quarts to allow for the initial rise. Five-quart containers are just big enough, but gallon containers will probably let rising dough overflow (it’s a mess).

Round containers are easier to mix in than square ones (flour gets caught in corners). Great options are available on www.BreadIn5.com or from Tupperware, kitchen-supply specialty stores as well as discount chains such as Costco.

Some food-storage buckets include a vented lid, which allows gases to escape during the fermentation process. You can usually close the vent (or seal the lid) after the first two days because gas production has really slowed by then. If your vessel has a plastic lid, you can drill a tiny hole in the lid to allow gas to escape.

Avoid glass or crockery containers that create a truly airtight seal (with a screw-top, for example), because trapped gases could shatter them. If you don’t have a vented container, just lid the lid open a crack for the first two days of storage. Soup pot lids aren’t airtight and can be seated fully from day one if you go that route. And of course, you can always use a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap (don’t use a towel – it sticks horribly to moisture dough).

Oven thermometer: Home ovens are often off by 75 degrees, so this is an important item. You need to know the actual oven temperature to get predictable bread-baking results.

A hot oven drives excess water out of dough, but if it’s too hot you’ll burn the crust before fully baking the crumb (the bread’s interior). Too low, and you’ll end up with a pale crust and an undercooked crumb unless you extend the baking time – but that can give you a thick, tough crust. Without the thermometer, your breadbaking will have an annoying element of trial and error. If your oven runs significantly hot or cool, you may want to have it recalibrated by a professional. Otherwise, just compensate by adjusting your heat setting.

Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of twelve cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, and cookbook editor. Norene lives in Toronto, Canada and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website at www.gourmania.com or email her at goodfood@gourmania.com.

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