Peter Reinhart’s Double Celebration Challah

by A.J. Coltrane

150406 challah2

From the Bread Baker’s Apprentice — Peter Reinhart’s Double Celebration Challah. The “Double Celebration” indicates a double-decker of braided dough — a smaller braid sits on a larger braid. I increased the recipe by 1.5x because we were feeding a crowd:

Ingredient Measure Baker’s %
Bread Flour 27 oz 100
Sugar 3 TBP 5.5
Salt 1.5 tsp 1.4
Instant Yeast 2 tsp 0.85
Vegetable Oil 3 TBP 5.5
Eggs, beaten 3 large 18
Egg Yolks 3 7
Egg Whites, whisked until frothy 3 7
Water (approx) 10.5-12 oz 45

and Sesame Seeds for garnish.

1.  Stir together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. In a separate (mixing) bowl combine oil, eggs, yolks, and 10.5 oz water. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet and mix on low speed until the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add the remaining water, if needed.

2.  Mix on medium low speed for 6 minutes, adding more flour if needed to make a dough that is not sticky.

3.  Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball, coat with oil, and let rest one hour, covered.

4.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead 2 minutes to degas. Return the dough to the bowl and let rest 1 hour.

5.  2/3rds of the dough becomes the big braid, and 1/3rd becomes the small braid. Each of those portions are divided into 3rds again, and rolled out into ropes which are smaller at the ends and larger in the center. The ropes are then braided, tucking the ends underneath. Watch this for help on how to braid. Transfer the big braided portion to a parchment lined baking sheet, top with the smaller braided portion.

6.  Brush the loaf with egg wash, spray with oil, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 60-75 minutes until the the dough has grown to 1.5x its original size.

150406 challah1

7.  Preheat the oven to 325F. Brush the loaf again with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake on the center rack for 20 minutes, then turn and bake another 20-45 minutes. The bread is done when golden brown and an instant thermometer reads 190F. (The pictured loaf took 25 minutes after turning.)

8.  Transfer to a cooling rack and wait at least an hour to eat.


The picture at the top of this post is the pretty side. Here’s the other side. The oven spring was so violent that it tore the braids:

150406 challah3

I’ve never seen anything spring like that. I was really surprised at the “time to turn” point — the bread had basically exploded.

The only complication that I ran into was self-induced:  I combined the flour with the minimum (7 oz) quantity of water and let it hang out in the refrigerator for three days before continuing with the recipe. In theory this would allow more flavor to develop. In reality it wasn’t enough water, and the flour became a brick. After a lot of work with a wooden spoon and the KitchenAid I was able to rehydrate the dough with the eggs and the rest of the water. For much of the process I thought the end product might have clumps of under-hydrated dough.

As far as taste — the recipe calls for oil out of respect for Passover. I think next time I’ll use butter. The finished product also needed a little more salt. I’m guessing the issues that I had with hydration resulted in the addition of too much flour, which threw the salt balance out of whack.

All in all though, it wasn’t a bad first attempt, and there’s plenty of room for it to get better.

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