A Taste of Challah

  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

Inspired by Tamar Ansh’s sim­ple style and easy to fol­low instruc­tions, I began the great chal­lah project on Sun­day morn­ing with a trip to the mar­ket for yeast. I came home and mixed up the dough accord­ing to the instruc­tions, rife with beau­ti­ful photos. 

After I punched, knead­ed and shaped the chal­lahs, I cre­at­ed a vari­ety of shapes using the excel­lent step-by-step instruc­tions. As I baked the bread, the aro­ma waft­ed through the house and teenagers came run­ning from every direc­tion. Although the chal­lahs looked good, were shaped well, and were baked well, they could have been more fla­vor­ful. The pecan/​cinnamon was the favorite, and it was quite tasty. 

As a resource, the step-by-step instruc­tions and pic­tures are won­der­ful. I also enjoyed read­ing about the tra­di­tions, respon­si­bil­i­ties and prayers sur­round­ing the act of mak­ing Chal­lah. The book includes heart­warm­ing sto­ries about bread bak­ing as well as a com­pre­hen­sive sec­tion on mea­sure­ments and con­ver­sions. While the book is writ­ten for the obser­vant chal­lah mak­er, bak­ers from Judaism’s oth­er branch­es will find the step-by-step instruc­tions and pho­tos that illus­trate how to shape the dough an invalu­able resource.

Recipe: Soft Pretzels 

Makes approx­i­mate­ly 25 – 30 medi­um size pret­zels

2 cups warm water
40 grams/1.5 oz. fresh yeast gran­ules
1/2 cup sug­ar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup soft mar­garine or short­en­ing
1 egg
6 1/2 — 7 1/2 cups flour

Glaze for pret­zels:
1 addi­tion­al egg yolk + 2 T. water
Coarse salt

Dis­solve the yeast in the warm water. Pour this into a bowl and add the sug­ar, salt, mar­garine, egg, and 3 cups of flour. Mix until smooth. 

Keep adding flour and mix­ing until the dough is a smooth and some­what stiff con­sis­ten­cy. Cov­er the bowl well and leave in refrig­er­a­tor to rise for 2 hours or overnight. 

Divide the dough into four sec­tions. Each sec­tion should make 6 small­er por­tions of dough. Roll out each small por­tion into logs and shape into pret­zel shapes. (see pho­to) Leave them to rise, cov­ered loose­ly with plas­tic, until dou­ble in size, about 25 min­utes. Mix the egg yolk and 2 T. water togeth­er. Brush this glaze over each pret­zel with a soft bris­tled pas­try brush. Sprin­kle pret­zels with coarse salt or sesame seeds and bake at 400 F/200 C for 15 min­utes, until gold­en brown and crispy on top. 

These pret­zels are a fun and spe­cial treat and can be frozen after baked if necessary. 

Addi­tion­al ideas:

For cheese pret­zels, roll out each por­tion of dough as you would for chal­lah. Sprin­kle each one with grat­ed parme­san or moz­zarel­la cheese and roll up. Con­tin­ue as direct­ed above by twist­ing these rolls into pret­zel shapes and bake as directed.

For whole wheat pret­zels:
Sub­sti­tute light brown sug­ar for the white sug­ar. Use 4 cups whole wheat flour, 2 1/23 1/2 cups white. Con­tin­ue with rest of recipe as direct­ed above. Pret­zels fea­tured in these pic­tures are whole wheat ones. (my idea: serve them with dips near­by and/​or a bowl of soup.)

A Taste of Chal­lah by Tamar Ash (Feld­heim Pub­lish­ers; 2007; Paper­back $34.99)

Discussion Questions