I came across a carnival today that I couldn't resist. (For those of you who would like more info on what a carnival is see wikipedia on the topic. It is a kosher food carnival hosted by muse .
Since I was young I've had a love of cooking, as a biologist I'm always trying to understand how it all works. I recently got a great cookbook by Shirley Corriher which explains a lot of food science. Like how gluten works. Gluten is a protein in bread. When it joins with water it makes chains which form into sheets. The yeast makes gases which make bubbles between these sheets and make your bread rise. If there are no sheets of gluten to hold the gasses they just evaporate. With this new understanding I began a quest to lighten my challah which ideally is 100% whole wheat. Before I read her book it often came out rather dense. Now it is light and springy.
Here it is:
1 package yeast (Here in Israel I use the fresh powdered variety but in the US I used Fleishmans)
1 ½ cups leukwarm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup oil
6-7 cups flour
Mix the yeast, water and two cups flour at low speed for five minutes (with fresh yeast no need for proofing if its dried yeast proof it first). Let this mixture sit from a half hour to an hour to improve flavor.
Stir in sugar, eggs, salt and oil. Add in the flour one cup at a time until the dough forms a soft ball that holds together. It will be soft, it is better to add less flour than more, if you add too much it will be heavy. How much flour can depend on the humidity and temperature of the day. It takes time to know how much to add.
Knead at medium speed (number 4 on a kitchenaid) for five minutes. This might seem excessive. When I make Challah now my kitchenaid dances across the counter so I stand nearby and restrain it every so often. This extended kneading is essential to develop the gluten and makes for a light bread. Let rise until doubled in size.
Turn out and devide into challot (It can make 4 small or 2 big). Take Challah. Let rise again. Brush with egg and sprinkle on seeds. Boil a few cups of water. Preheat oven to 325 F. Put the boiling water in an empty pan on the bottom of your oven (or bottom shelf if oven is electric). This creates steam to help the challah rise high in the oven before the top crust forms. Once the crust forms the challah can't rise any higher, so if you add the steam the challah rises for a longer period of time in the oven. Put in the challah on cookie sheets. Raise the oven temp to 350 F. Bake until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and the top is golden (usually about a half hour).
If I don't need all the challot for Shabbat I braid them and freeze them. Then I just thaw them, let them rise and bake them!