Saturday, January 30, 2010

This side of the continent is really growing on me. A 2 day mini-trip to New York cemented the whole thing, I think I could live happily between the two cities (gastronomically). Food. Everywhere. Of every kind. I had to restrain myself running through the streets of NYC, itching to eat my way through the city. Definitely my kind of holiday.

No proper book-talk this time, as I'm midway through a handful of books, but I promise one for next time!

I tasted my first challah, stuffed with sweetened cream cheese (!), a few months back, and since then I've been curious about the process of making one. This is far from perfect, but for a first attempt, not bad. I think the heaping spoonfuls of Nutella had something to do with that. The recipe was taken from 'Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day', which is an absolutely fabulous book for carb-lovers in general, especially those in a hurry.

Nutella and Hazelnut Challah

The master challah dough is a mixture of 1 and 3/4 cups lukewarm water, 1.5 tablespoons instant yeast, 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt, 4 large beaten eggs, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 unsalted melted butter, and 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour. Stir like a maniac, and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 3 days. Pinch off a grapefruit size chunk, and away you go:

Now for the logistics and elbow grease. After shaping the dough into a ball, roll it with your hands into a log. Cut into 3 equal pieces, and roll each piece out into a long thick rope. Indent the middle of each rope with the side of your hand - the deeper they are, the more Nutella you can add.

Generously spread about 2 tablespoons (or more!) of Nutella into the indents.

Once you're done with the Nutella, pinch the dough closed into little tubes. It's not a perfect art (or at least not in my hands), but a few splodges of Nutella peeking through won't hurt anyone.

Now for the braiding! Line the 3 logs up next to eachother on a baking sheet. The book suggested starting the braiding in the middle of the logs and working out, which worked quite well. It's a bit hopeless looking at first...

...but it somehow manages to come together. Tuck the ends slightly underneath the body of the challah.

Cover with a towel and let it rest for about an hour. Preheat your oven to 350F. Once the dough has puffed a bit, brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts (or nuts of your choosing).

Bake for about 25 minutes. Voila! A Challah! Not as hard as I expected, though my technique isn't quite there yet. The massive batch of master dough is quite generous, so you've loads of dough to practice with. Enjoy!

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