Lockdown Challah 

3 Aug

This recipe makes two large loaves. For one large loaf or two small ones, halve the quantities.

Ingredients

Six-stranded challah

400ml (16fl oz) water
960g (2lb) strong white flour
6 level tsp caster sugar
14g dried yeast or 28g fresh yeast
4 level tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
3 large eggs
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds

Method

Heat the water until it is tepid but not hot, and pour into a bowl.

Add one third of the flour, the sugar and the yeast. Mix until smooth, cover with a teatowel and leave for 20 minutes until it looks frothy.

Add the salt and olive oil. Beat two of the eggs and add them with the remaining flour.

Mix with a spoon and then, if it’s easier, with your hands until it forms a dough. Knead for 10-15 mins until it is smooth.

Form the dough into a ball and place it either in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm, or in an oiled polythene bag, loosely fastened, leaving enough room for it to double in size.

You can now either leave it in the fridge overnight to rise slowly, or keep it at room temperature until it has doubled in size – usually 1-2 hours.

If it has been in the fridge, leave it at room temperature for about 30 min after you have taken it out before shaping it.

Knock back the dough (knead it for 2-3 minutes), then divide it into two equal pieces.

Divide each of these into three pieces, form each piece into a ball, then roll them into sausage-shaped strands about 30cm long.

Press the strands firmly together at one end, then plait without leaving gaps,. but without stretching the dough.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Alternatively, you can make a six-strand plait, which looks beautiful and makes a taller loaf. Braiding six strands is very counterintuitive and the best way to learn is to watch a video of it in practice, like this one: How to Braid a Six Strand Loaf.

Place the loaves on baking sheets lined with non-stick baking parchment. Cover them with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove (rise) until the dough springs back when touched with a finger – usually around 30-50 min.

While you are waiting, turn on the oven to 220C (425F, Gas Mark 7).

Beat the remaining egg and brush the loaves with it. Scatter poppy seeds or sesame seeds over the top.

Bake for around 45 min until dark golden brown. Test to see if they are ready by tapping on the base of the loaf. When they are cooked they will sound hollow.

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