September 8, 2007
Goodies that make you want to challah
(Page 3 - Previous Page)In a large bowl, whisk together yeast, cardamom, ginger and 2/3 cup of the flour. Whisk in warm water until smooth. Let stand uncovered 10-20 minutes, until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.
Whisk sugar, salt, oil, 1 egg and puree into puffed yeast slurry until well combined. With your hands or wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour all at once. When mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it onto your work surface. Knead until well mixed, fairly smooth and firm. (Soak mixing bowl in hot water to clean and warm it for fermenting dough.) If dough is too firm, add a tablespoon or two of water. If dough is too wet, add flour by the tablespoon until dough is firm, easy to knead and not at all sticky.
When dough is fully kneaded, set it in the cleaned, warmed bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. (Dough can be refrigerated at this point for up to 24 hours.) Let dough ferment until tripled in bulk, two to three hours (an additional hour if refrigerated).
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or oil them. Divide dough into two equal loaves. Place each on a baking sheet. To form a spiral, roll each dough half into a very thin sheet. Tightly roll sheet into a long, even strand. Wind dough loosely around, starting at the center, leaving plenty of space between loops. Bind last loop tightly to force dough to rise in center. Tuck end of strand loosely under the last loop. Tent dough well with plastic wrap. Let loaves proof until tripled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange oven racks in upper and lower third positions and remove any racks above them. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat remaining egg with pinch of salt for glaze.
When loaves have tripled in size and don't push back when gently pressed with a finger but remain indented, brush with egg glaze. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake until very well browned, 35 to 40 minutes. (After first 20 minutes, switch pans from top to bottom and front to back to brown evenly.) Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Makes two 1-pound challahs.
Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of "Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family" (Workman, $19.95) and may be found on the Web at www.cookingjewish.com.