Saturday, July 18, 2009

Peter Reinhart's Challah

IMG_1911

Friends, I am in a quandary. I need your help. See, for years, I have been traumatized by challah. No, I don't mean that I've been chased around by the Jewish Sabbath bread a la "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," or that challah haunts my nightmares, or anything like that. To be more precise, I've been traumatized by baking challah.

IMG_1897

My first challah experiment came from a book (we will leave it nameless here) that purported to give you an "authentic" challah recipe. This was the first bread that I had ever attempted to bake and I was a little (a lot) unsure of myself. To make a very long story very short, I forgot to add the eggs to the dough. Yeah, now you know the shameful skeleton in my closet. I forgot to put eggs into egg bread. I made the recipe again, with the wind taken considerably out of my sails, but I might as well have not made it at all because it tasted nothing like the challah I knew.

IMG_1917

Over the next eight years, I've shied away from challah, looking for that "perfect" recipe, not daring to try it again. Failure is not something I deal with well, as you can see. So when I saw Peter Reinhart's recipe, I thought, "bingo!" because, I mean, he's Peter Reinhart! Right? ... This story does not have a happy ending because, although the challah turned out very tasty indeed, it's still not the challah that I'm used to. It somehow wasn't eggy enough or sweet enough, or rich enough or something that's undetectable and yet you know it's there. It's a great bread and we've already gone through one of the two loaves, but... it's just not "the" challah.

IMG_1924

Is it my technique? Is it the recipe? Is it that I'm cursed with forever making the wrong challah? Please help. If you have any, and I mean any advice (techniques, your favorite recipes, sob stories), please share them with me. I'm ready to try again, but I need inspiration. You can find the recipe for Peter Reinhart's challah here (in the Google preview of his "Baker's Apprentice").

IMG_1929

36 comments:

Y said...

Hmm.. I don't know. I've baked challah before and loved the result, but as I haven't actually tasted "the" real thing, apart from my efforts, it's hard to say. What you've made there looks really delicious though!

Irene said...

*sigh* It *was* really good, but the real challah is different - rich, eggy, soft, kind of hard to describe. This was just... not it. :( I still love Peter Reinhart, though.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Irene. Sorry your bread didn't turn out so well. Email me and I'll send you another recipe for Challah. It uses almost double the sugar in the form of honey and an extra egg.

Amy J

Irene said...

Amy, that sounds more like it! I thought the recipe needed honey (or some more sugar) and the egg count seemed low, but who was I to mess with the master of bread? I don't think I have your email address, when you get a chance, can you please send me the recipe? sweet.persuasion (at) gmail (dot) com. Thank you!!!

Irina @ PastryPal said...

Challah is almost like a brioche dough in profile, except challah uses oil instead of butter (to keep it kosher, I guess?) Brioche has lots of butter worked into the dough to keep it soft and lush and moist. Oh, delicious fat! This challah recipe uses only 2 TB oil. Other challah recipes I've spotted use considerably more oil for this amount of flour (1/4 cup to 1/3 cup), so maybe that's a place to start tinkering. Anyway, your bread still looks delicious. I love to make french toast with my leftover challah.

Manggy said...

Sorry, never made if before-- but yours does look great :) Maybe try the recipe from Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets?

Helene said...

I have to say this it looks fabulous. Sorry that it's not the taste that you are looking for. I never tasted Challah before.

Irene said...

Oh, that's true, OIL. I didn't even think of that. That would make a big difference and you're right, it's almost like brioche. Oil is to keep it pareve. I saw recipes for challah that were similar to brioche, with butter, but obviously, that limits one to dairy meals, and I wanted an all purpose recipe.

Manggy, do you have that recipe? And if you do, would you mind sharing? My goal is to collect as much info and look at as many recipes as possible and then I can figure out which one sounds more in line with the type of challah I'm most used to.

Junglefrog said...

I have never tasted a challah (up untill recently had never even heard of one!) so wouldn't be able to help you. Would love to find out if you do find the perfect recipe though... So I might be able to try it too. It looks delicious anyway!

lisamichele said...

Irene, try my Grandma's Challah!! Trust me, it's the challah we all know, eggy, sweet, and has that 'ceratin challah something' you mentioned, but is hard to explain :) If it's a little too dense, sub 1 whole egg for two of the yolks, but I love it as is..perfection!

Your BBA Challah came out gorgeous, and as you said, tasty..you could make some mad sandwiches and french toast with the leftovers - if you haven't already :)

Elra said...

Gosh, I always love challah. I haven't made it lately, so I better do that soon. Yours look absolutely gorgeous!

♥peachkins♥ said...

wow! this is a very pretty challah!

Irene said...

Lisa, you sound like you know what I'm looking for! I'm going to give your grandmother's challah a shot!

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Oh I love challah! When I'm in the city on the weekends I always stop by Zaro's and grab a loaf. I love how the bottom of the bread gets a sweet eggy soft crust. It's so hard to explain! I wish you luck on your search for the perfect recipe and if you find one please share because I would love to make it:)

nicole said...

We must be on the same wavelength, because I made challah yesterday... it was quite good, but I'm no challah expert, so I'm not sure if it's what you would be looking for. Good luck!

Karine said...

You challah looks great! You did a great job at it :)

Bunny said...

Oh boy I can't help you with this, I've never made it. But I'll be waiting to see your next attempt to see how you like it!

the caked crusader said...

I know what you mean about real Challah's egginess. This looks beautiful - shame it wasn't what you were looking for

ChichaJo said...

Wish I could helped but I've neither baked challah nor actually tasted authentic challah - the ones they sell here I doubt are truly authentic. Good luck on your quest though! :)

Patsyk said...

I wish I had some advice, but I've been very hesitant to make challah myself. I will be interested to see what others have to say about this... your loaf does look beautiful, BTW.

Irene said...

Thank you all for your kind words, advice and encouragement! I'm armed with recipes and ready to try again! Good thing that bread is so forgiving - I mean, even if it doesn't turn out to be "the" challah, it'll still be delicious, right? :)

Juliana said...

I am sorry that your challah did not turn out as you expected...although the loaf looks yummie.

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Er, I really want to make my own challah, and I have a bunch of recipes, but I've never gotten around to it. Your experiences are making me nervous. Maybe I'll put it off some more till the fall.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow, that challah looks just about perfect! The crumb looks great!

I just wanted to let you know that you won a giveaway through The Foodie Blogroll! We emailed you, but have not heard back. Please email us at:

support at foodieblogroll.com

for more information! Congratualtions!

Jude said...

Saying that your forgot to put eggs in egg bread made me smile. Like so: :)
Happens to the best of us. Sorry that I can't help you with searching for that one recipe.

Rachel said...

The suggestions to add more egg, oil, and honey all seem dead on. I've also been searching for the perfect challah for years now, and I'm still not there. I actually don't like my challah very sweet (was never a huge fan of the bakery that sold almost cakelike challah where I grew up), but good challah does have that certain something that I've never been able to recreate at home.

Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Rachel said...

For what it's worth, your challah in the picture looks too dry and not yellow enough, so maybe more oil and egg are the major issue.

Ash said...

What a great looking loaf!

Anonymous said...

Now, maidele, if you lived in Nu Yowk, would you bother baking your own challah, nu? - No, no and no. Zabar's would have ten challahs for you to choose from. And Fairway would have another 10, in case you got too choosy.

Baking her own challah, that girl! Oy gevalt! :D

F.

Irene said...

I know, I know... and they *do* bake a good one here, but... I'm just the annoying kind of person - I want to know how to do everything myself!

Rosemary said...

First of all, I really enjoy your blog (writing and photographs). I'm a Pastry student and am new to bread baking. In school, I recently learned about Baker's Percentages, which helped me determine that Peter Reinhart's recipe didn't use as many eggs as my class recipe. Also, my class used egg yolks only, which probably contributed to the yellow color you were hoping for in Peter Reinhart's recipe. Ratio wise, everything else was equal (with the exception of the fact that my school tends to overdo it with the yeast proportions to expedite the bread-making process since our classes only last 4 hours). I'm more than happy to share the recipe, if you are still searching!

Shoshana said...

I just stumbled across your blog and I love it! I have a few favorite challah recipes (depending on how much time I have to spend baking) and they all have more eggs, honey and oil/margarine. I would be happy to send them along to you if you are interested, you can email me through my blog.

drowning in the midwest said...

i know this is a long gone topic, but I came across your blog while searching for a challah recipe. I, too, want that rich, sweet challah thing going on. the kind you can kind of grab a chunk and pull apart. i keep thinking the recipes i am using don't have enough egg or sugar in them.

so i'm wondering, did you find THE RECIPE?

Irene said...

Your comment inspired me to continue my search and I'm happy to report that, though I did not find THE recipe, I found one that's almost almost perfect. I'm going to post about in a few days, but here is a link: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/challah.aspx. It's sweet, it's pull apart soft, oh it's so good... the only thing is that it wasn't yellow enough, and I wonder if I need a recipe with an extra egg yolk in there... but the flavor was lovely and I'm definitely making this one again.

Hadster said...

To me, Zomiks is THE challah. Soft and sweet goodness.

ANYWAY, I decided that what I really needed was a dairy free BRIOCHE! It was an inspiration. I started with the Poor Man's Brioche. Not soft enough. Then I went to the Middle Class Brioche. Success!

Then I had to figure out what to do about all of that butter.

Wait for it.... Crisco shortening. That's right, plain Crisco shortening. I tied the butter flavored - after verifying with the lovely people at the Orthodox Union that the butter flavored Crisco "baking sticks" were indeed parve - but I prefer the plain Crisco.

The Crisco MUST be at room temperature. DO NOT LET IT MELT - is should remain solid.

Start mixing it in when you have about 3/4 of the flour mixed in - a table spoon or so at the time. It's more of a folding in, really.

The dough will be very soft and a joy to work with.

The trick is to not let the shortening melt.

Be careful about adding too more honey or eggs, as the proportions go off if you do, but you can fudge a bit.

Hope this helps!

Hadster

Anonymous said...

I found the best- yes I dare say it- challah recipe. It's Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe from The Bread Bible. Hands down, best. It calls for 1/3 cup oil, 5 eggs, and 8 tbs total of honey.