Friday, February 26, 2010

Swirly Feathers - or how I mastered the supermarket challah

One of my favorite things about a good challah, is unfortunatly something I seem to find only in the store bought kind. But being the DIY nut that I am, this was too good of a challenge to just resign myself.
Until recently, I even started wondering if this was achieved unnaturally with some kind of additive that conditions the dough.
I'm talking about "feathering". I have no idea if there is a particular name for this, but even a lengthy search on the internet didn't turn out anything clear on this matter. Every time I buy a supermarket Challah and crack it open, it seems to be made of long yummy, slightly moist, swirls of bread crumb... whilst the ones that are home made, turn out caky or like white bread, meaning, no feathering whatsoever. They are good, but it's just not the same.
I decided to try Uri Scheft's recipe. Nothing seemed particularly different from any other Challah recipe,  except that the picture in the book seemed to have the intriguing pattern of a feathered crumb.
I followed the recipe exactly and even used a timer.
Well, I did add a good 30 minutes to the first rise, because the dough obviously didn't double it's size. And yes, I also added another 15 minutes to the final rise for the same reason. But that's it! (blame it on the cold weather).
My electronic scale. Can't live without it.

I have to admit that my skill at making braids ends with making them on my own hair, because when it comes to dough, it just looks silly. I did manage to make some pretty neat 25 cm long ropes and this time, I didn't roll it like the usual. Could it have made a difference? I want to believe so. 
I usually roll by pressing the dough, pretty much like anyone would do with play-dough, but this time, I did it like when making a baguette. By flattening it down a bit and rolling it unto itself. I did it about 3 times until I got the right length.

And here are my three challot, ready for the final rise. 

Covered with a kitchen towel and a plastic bag to keep moist

After raising for 35 min (plus 15 in my case) and glazing with egg (no sesame seeds this time), I cooked them at 220 degrees Celcius for 25 minute (if you are serious about cooking, I highly recommend getting an oven thermometer. You won't believe how often your oven thermostat is out of whack.

As you can see, the braid didn't come out very pretty, as expected, but it smelled fantastic. At this point, I had absolutely no hope for feathering, since this looked like any homemade bread... but I was wrong.

 Distinctive swirly feathers. Yum.


  1. wow. looks yummy.

  2. Oh! Very nice bread! I was never so good with baking, it will always come out too dull or too cakey for me.

    Some years ago I found too that my home - oven was lying with the temperature, it was very painful experience. I replaced the over from anger.

    Welcome back! ^0^

  3. Mine is always hotter by 20 to 30 degrees Celcius, so I keep a thermometer inside at all times and just adjust accordingly. It sucks, but I can't afford a better one!

  4. WOW!!!! I am going to have to share this with my readers!!! Posting it up on my blog!! Will send you the link!!! I will link to your blog!
    mama Holli

  5. Posting you up!!

    Have a great day!