Peter Reinhart’s Challah

by A.J. Coltrane

Easter called for another Challah, this time I tried Peter Reinhart’s, from his book Artisan Breads Every Day. (Last year was his “Double Celebration Challah“. For comparison, here is my 2nd attempt at Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Brioche, a recipe which I found to be a pain to parse.)

This year’s Challah was fairly simple and easy — combine all ingredients, knead, cover, then put it in the refrigerator overnight (or up to three days). The dough is then shaped into braids, braided, covered with egg wash, allowed to rise, covered with egg wash (again) and sesame seeds, allowed to rise (again), then baked:

160329 challah

The recipe is here, on Michael Ruhlman’s website. Note that I halved all of the ingredients — I didn’t need to make two loaves. I don’t know why Reinhart often writes recipes for two (or four, or eleventytwelve) doughs. Though at least this time he used grams, so I didn’t have to mess with figuring out what a one-third portion of 7-1/4 cups of flour computes to.

I like this recipe better than either of the other two that I referenced at the start of this post. The Double Celebration Challah calls for an indeterminate amount of water, 10.5 to 12 ounces — that’s a big range! The Beranbaum Brioche recipe is very poorly worded, and I feel like the recipe is broken into more steps than is necessary.

From a taste standpoint, this Challah was better 2015’s. It may be that including the optional vanilla extract made a difference, though no one mentioned that they detected it. I also think the salt level was very close to correct this time, in contrast to the 2015 bread which seemed to be lacking salt.

Other notes:

  1.  This Challah called for coating the dough with egg wash twice, at one hour intervals. The dough rests uncovered the entire time. It sounds really odd, but it worked.
  2.  Last year’s Challah split — almost exploded. I read somewhere that splitting tends to happen if the braiding is too tight, which definitely could have been the case.
  3.  When it came to the “knead on the counter until the dough is tacky but not sticky” — at least this time the dough was very wet and shaggy at the start of the kneading, and it took a fair amount of flour to get to “tacky”. Maybe it was just humid(?)

Overall it’s a low-hassle, nice tasting bread, and it’s attractive too. I can see making this again even if it isn’t a special occasion.


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