Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pre-Passover Bread

Passover is only a few days away, and the planning and plotting has begun! to prepare for a week withouth delicious yeasty bread, i felt the need to be as bready as possible this weekend. and give up some yeasty bready secrets to making challah and bagels, the two most Jewish breads that you can't have during Passover. I'm pretty sure i've posted both of these recipes in some fashion or another before, and they are both adapted from The Book of Jewish Food, by Claudia Roden.

Challah (makes two braided loaves)
1 pgk yeast
1 1/8 cup warm water
little bit of honey
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg for later
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup oil
4 to 5 cups flour (have 5 cups ready, you probably won't use it all)

for dough that doesn't need as much flour (and thus is moister), start a pot of water to boil on the stove. you're not going to use this water for anything, it's just to get additional moisture into the air, and really makes a difference in the winter when the air is drier.

dissolve the yeast in the warm water with a little bit of honey. wisk well, and leave for 10 minutes. it should get foamy. in a very large bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in the salt, sugar and oil. add the yeast mixture and beat again. slowly add the flour in, about a cup at a time, until you have a soft, kneadable dough. do not feel like you need to use all the flour, in fact, the less flour you use, the better. dip your palms in flour, and knead for 10-12 minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic. Pour a few drops of oil in the bottom of the bowl and roll the dough around to grease it. cover, and let rise for 2 and a half hours in a warm place, such as near the pot of boiling water.

after it's risen, punch down and knead a few more times. divide dough into 2 even peices, and divide each one of those into 3 peices. roll out into 6 ropes to make two braided loaves. let these rise for one hour on a greased cookie sheet for one hour. preheat the oven to 350, and brush the loaves with egg. bake for 30 minutes, and let cool on racks.


not in the mood for Challah? How about bagels? they are more fun to make, and make a great gift.

Bagels (makes 10-12)

3 1/2 cups flour
1 pkg yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
1 large egg (or 2 small) beaten
1 1/2 tbsp oil
3/4 cups warm water (you may not use all of it)
1 egg white

In the challah recipe, you add flour to wet ingredients, this recipe is the opposite, where you are adding water to dry ingredients. so you may not use all the water, or you may need more, depending on the moisture content of the flour and of your kitchen.

in large bowl, mix flour, sugar, yeast and salt. fold in egg and oil. it will be a very dry dough, this is okay! now add the water a little at a time until you get a pliable, yet heavy dough. if you've ever made pasta dough, this will feel a little like that. knead for 10-12 minutes or until soft and elastic (this dough will never get as elastic as challah dough, so try not to knead it past 12 or 13 minutes or it will just get tough). put a little oil in the bottom of the bowl and coat the ball of dough. cover at let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

after 2 hours, punch down and knead a few more times. divide dough into ten or twelve dough balls, as equally sizes as possible. take each dough ball and punch a hole in the center with your thumb, then form it into a bracelet. you just made your first bagel!! make the bracelets a little bigger than you expect, as the dough will spring back some. form all your bagels, and let rise on a greased cookie sheet for an hour and a half.

preheat the oven to 375get a big pot of water boiling on the stove, and once it's at a boil, boil the bagels three or four at a time for 2-4 minutes each, flipping them over every so often. if you've got a slotted large spatula, that works great for this. after the bagels have been in the water bath, let them dry a bit on parchment paper, wax paper, or some cheese cloth.

brush the bagels with egg white, then press into a plate of any toppings you want, like sesame seeds or fried onion. bake on a greased cookie sheet for 15 to 18 minutes at 375. they should be slightly browned and getting crispy on the outside when they come out. let cool on wire racks.

these bagels are nothing like panera or big apple bagels. they remind me a little off Brueger's bagels in detroit, but i don't know if that chain exists anymore. they are chewy, fluffy, and still have some weight to them.

have fun!

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