Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sephardic Challah

I finally got around to making this bread. I thought challah always had eggs, but the Engineer tells me this is not so – perhaps I’m just used to Ashkenazic challah. It was easy to make and it looked really nice, too. It has less flavour than egg bread, but the seeds (caraway, sesame and anise) make up for it. The directions below only call for the first two, but you may reduce the amount and compensate with the aniseed – I used 3 Tbsp sesame seeds and 1 ½ tsp anise seeds. The Engineer and I both really liked this bread. I served it with tuna and white bean salad.

3 ½ Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
5 cups (780 grams) bread flour
2 ¼ tsp instant yeast
2 cups warm water
2 ½ Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 egg, for glaze

In a skillet, toast the sesame and caraway seeds for a few minutes over moderate heat. (You may reduce the amount of sesame and caraway seeds and add anise seeds if you like.)

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and yeast with the water, olive oil and honey, and mix on low speed until a very soft dough forms. Add the salt and all but 1 Tbsp of the seeds and mix on medium-low speed, until dough is soft and supple, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour. (Normally I use a big bowl for this, and that’s what I recommend. That day, however, the big bowl was dirty, so I used a medium one, and I waited over 1 hour to check on the dough. This wouldn’t have been an issue with the big bowl, but let’s just say I got a little more than I bargained for!)

Put parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Dust parchment with cornmeal, if desired. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press to deflate. Cut the dough in half and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch long rope and let rest for another 5 minutes, then roll each rope into a 30-inch rope. Beginning with one end of the rope, which will be the center of the coil, work outward, forming each rope into a coil. Tuck the far end under the coil.

Transfer the coils to the baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap for about 1 hour, until nearly doubled.

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Whisk the egg with 1 Tbsp water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and let stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle with the reserved seeds. Bake the loaves in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Transfer to racks and let cool completely before slicing.

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