The only challah recipe you’ll ever need (and it gets you a babka, too) – The Denver Post


By Claire Saffitz, The New York Times

If you don’t have the patience for breadmaking (or for baking at all), chances are you’ll still find challah, the enriched bread often served on the Jewish sabbath and during the High Holy Days, not only manageable — but fun.

Compared with more technical breads, like sourdough loaves or baguettes, challah is mostly hands-off, with an easy-to-handle dough. Plaiting it into a braid is pleasantly tactile, and the end result always looks impressive, even if your braiding skills are average. The loaves are also versatile, lending themselves equally well to sweet preparations (bread pudding and cinnamon toast) and savory ones (sandwiches and accompaniments to soups, stews and saucy braises).

But challah is still bread, so all the principles of sound breadmaking — fermentation, bakers’ percentages and gluten development, to name a few — apply.

Some challah recipes, however, tend to gloss over those concepts, making pitfalls like undermixing and underproofing more likely and yielding bread that isn’t as silky and light as it could — and should — be. As a challah-lover and avid home bread baker, I wanted to create a classic recipe that not only has a rich, lightly sweet crumb and thready, pull-apart texture, but also integrates core breadmaking techniques to maximize your chances at success.

This particular recipe is forgiving, flexible and doable in a day. And that it’s rooted in technique makes it a fantastic gateway bread. If you’re bread-curious but not sure where to begin, start here. With Rosh Hashana starting on the evening of Sept. 25, make it now so you can enter the holiday baking season with a bit of bread experience under your belt.

Start With a Sponge

Many challah recipes call for mixing an unusually high proportion of yeast directly into the dough. Because active dry yeast, the most common yeast for home bakers, isn’t very efficient in a high-sugar, low-moisture dough like challah, adding a lot of yeast accelerates fermentation.


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