Saturday, 28 April 2012


Here's an interesting fact about me: half my ancestors are Jewish. My maternal grandparents, and a big chunk of my family on that side.

So I've had some interesting Jewish cultural experiences in life, which is great of course. It's pretty hard to imagine what it's like to have two sets of grandparents, and neither of them be Jewish.

You what? You had dinner with them on a Sunday every week, not a Friday? You've never been to a Seder night, and spent hours sitting round a huge table eating tiny pieces of cracker? You've never tasted Challah?!

Seriously. We should change that. Like right now. No-one deserves to live without tasting Challah.

OK, if you don't know what it is, it's a Jewish bread. It's made with extra eggs, fat and sugar, so it's deliciously rich and sweet. And it's normally formed into a plait or knot shape.

So I went for my usual tactic of looking up every recipe I could find and trying to distil some kind of ratio. Here is everything I found:
  • It's bread, so it's got a lot of flour in it, and quite a bit of water. However, it has less water than in the standard bread ratio of 5:3 - it has about half the amount of water as flour instead. This is because the extra eggs and fat also add moisture, so less plain water is needed. It also has yeast in it (because it's bread). It contains the normal amount of yeast for standard bread - 1% of the weight of the flour. And it also has a bit of salt in it - the same amount as  yeast as usual for bread.
  • It has eggs in it. The average amount of egg used is 1/8 the weight of the flour.
  • It has honey or sugar in it. There is pretty much an equal amount of recipes which suggest each. I actually used a mixture of the two in mine. The average amount used is also 1/8 the weight of the flour.
  • It has fat in it - in the form of liquid oil. Standard cooking oil is fine - that's what I used. The average amount is about 1/12 of the weight of the flour.
  • All those numbers are a bit confusing and don't really correlate to each other,  but I figured out a ratio which pretty much works, although it's kind of unwieldy.
24 Flour : 12 Water : 3 Honey : 3 Egg : 2 Oil
  • Yeah I know, it's not that great. It's certainly not my most proud ratio. In fact it probably hasn't helped much at all, but I felt like I should put it in because I used it to actually make my bread.
  • Shall I just give you some example quantities? Fiiiiine. But this isn't a recipe, OK?!
  • To make one small/medium-sized loaf, I used:
    • 400g Bread Flour
    • 200g Water
    • 50g Honey or Sugar
    • 50g Eggs (1 Egg)
    • 34g Cooking Oil
    • 4g Yeast
    • ~4g Salt
  • I know the 34g is still kind of messy but it doesn't have to be exact. You could probably use equal amounts of sugar, egg and fat, and it would probably be fine. In hindsight, maybe I should have just done that! Well, I didn't, so there you go. 
  • The actual method is pretty similar to ordinary bread. The only difference is the way you mix the ingredients at the beginning. You start with your water (preferably just warm-to-skin), then mix in the yeast, salt and the wet ingredients (honey, eggs, oil). Yes, it looks seriously appetizing at this point.
  • Then you add in the flour until it turns to dough. This method isn't really any different, it's just to make it easier to mix all the wet ingredients together.
  • Once you have dough, you knead it for ten or fifteen minutes, then let it rise until doubled.
  • Then knead it again, and shape it. I divided mine into three sections and plaited it, just one over the other in the usual way. Then let it rise again until doubled, and then glaze it. I just used an egg, beaten just to combine it and then brushed all over the surface. It gives the finished loaf a beautiful shiny crust, but it's not totally necessary. And then bake.
  • ....At about 180C. The time will depend on the size of your loaf, but it might be 40 minutes or so. You can tell it's done when it sounds 'hollow' when you knock on the bottom.

This bread is truly delicious. Just make it, trust me.

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