Sweet Saturday #8 - The perfect dairy Challah

Eating challah is an important part of my childhood memories and I have been experimenting for years to find the best challah recipe. I have done parve (non dairy) challahs, i have done dairy challahs, but none of them ever got that super light and airy texture i had in my mind. It always turned out too compact. I wanted it fluffy like a brioche. Exactly. There came the idea to experiment with brioche doughs to get the perfect challah...Well, after numerous tryouts, here is the recipe of the best challah ever. As a small warning: you will need some patience, this recipe takes time (start the evening, let it refrigerate over night and get it out of the oven by noon on the next day) and a lots of kneading but at the end you will be able to literally taste the love and effort that you put in it.

This recipe will give you one big or two medium size challahs.

It was inspired by the brioche recipe by Allison Ehri Kreitler and Lesli Heffler Flick.

Ingredients:

500 gr. white flour

70 gr. sugar

14 gr. active dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

4 large eggs, at room temperature, plus 2 large eggs for the egg wash

125 ml. whole milk, at room temperature

225 gr. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, slightly softened

 

Directions:

Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a bowl. Add 4 of the eggs and the milk.

Mix everything together with a spoon. As soon as the dough starts to clump together, pour the content of the bowl on the table  and continue kneading with your hands.

Continue to knead until the dough is firm and elastic.

Start adding 2 small pieces of butter. Place them in the center of the ball and fold the dough so that they are disappearing in the center.

Continue kneading. Eventually the butter will be pushed to the outside again and stick to your hands. Then the dough will stick to the table and you will think that you made a mistake and that something is wrong with your dough. Don't worry, everything is fine.  Just keep on kneading...

Keep on kneading till the butter is fully incorporated to the dough. Then add the next two pieces and repeat the process with the remaining pieces of butter till your dough is smooth, soft and shiny. The dough will be very moist but don't add any additional flour! Form the dough into a ball by folding the sides into the middle at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.

Flip the dough over, place your palms on either side of the dough, and tuck it under itself, turning the dough as you tuck to form a loose ball with a smooth top. Transfer the dough, smooth side up, to a clean large bowl. Cover with a plastic foil and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Flip the bowl and with your hand ease out the dough, smooth top down, onto the table. Again, form it into a ball by folding the sides into the middle at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Flip the dough over, place your palms on either side of the dough, and tuck it under itself, turning the dough as you tuck to form a loose ball with a smooth top. Transfer the dough, smooth side up, back to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic. Put the bowl into the refrigerator overnight.

Take the bowl out of the refrigerator (the dough is probably more than doubled in size at this point) and let it warm up to room temperature in a warm, draft-free spot. This will take about two hours.

Flip the bowl and with your hand, ease out the dough, smooth top down, onto the table. If you want to do one big challah, cut the dough into three equal pieces. (I usually do two challahs by first dividing the dough in two and then again dividing each of the pieces in three equal parts). Form 3 long strands, about 40-45 cm long each. Connect the tips together and start braiding (like you would a classic hair braid). Tuck the ends under themselves.

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In a small bowl, make the egg wash by beating the remaining egg plus 1 egg yolk. Lightly brush the top of the challahs. Cover each of them very loosely with plastic foil and let them rise for another hour. Put the remaining egg wash in the fridge.

reheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius. Very carefully take the plastic foil off. The dough will stick to the plastic, so go slowly. Then take the remaining egg wash and brush the entire challah with a second layer of egg.  (optionally you can sprinkle the top with sesame seeds). Put the challah in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes.

Bake until dark golden-brown on top and golden on the sides, then take the challah out and let it cool on a wire rack for. It's most amazing if you serve it while it's still warm to the touch.

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