For Thanksgiving I thought I’d give Peter Reinhart’s recipe another try. (2015 post here. 2016 post here. Ruhlman original post here. The skeleton of the post below is copied and pasted from the 2015 post.)
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:
|Softened Unsalted Butter
|Egg Whites, whisked until frothy
and Sesame Seeds for garnish.
1. One day ahead of time, combine 10.5 oz of water and bread flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature. (It’s a simple Poolish without yeast. This would also be fine up to three days in the refrigerator, if so, remove from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before continuing.)
2. Stir together 15 oz flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. In a separate (mixing) bowl combine butter, eggs, and yolks. Turn the mixer on low speed. Add the wet ingredients to the mixer, then slowly add the dry mixture until the ingredients gather and form a ball.
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 an egg whites 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.
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 saw 25 minutes after turning, which I think was too long. More on that below.)
8. Transfer to a cooling rack and wait at least an hour to eat.
I think every time I’ve made this I’ve come away thinking it could be better. 20 minutes + 25 minutes brings the internal temperature closer to 205F than 190F. In the future I’ll likely check the temperature at about the 20 + 15 minute mark. I also think the challah would benefit from a little more salt than the recipe calls out, perhaps even just an extra 1/2 tsp to take the total to 2 tsp (not including the salt in the eggs.)
We had a little bit of extra dough at the end of one of the braids. We were going to visit a 6-year old on Thanksgiving, so:
In reality the “body” is about 4 inches across. It has an “eye” of sesame seeds and a piece of black sea salt. The “turkey” went into the oven with the challah and was pulled at the 25 minute mark.
The kid seemed to dig it.