So I’ve decided to begin a trilogy of posts about one of my favourite parts of this whole Jew thing: the bread. Yes, if choosing a religion/culture/cuisine (tick as appropriate) came to a competition between bakers, there would definitely be more Jews on the planet than, say, the Japanese. Ok, unfair comparison, but you get the point, Jewish bakery = sublime.
This week is Chollah week. Chollah? Challah! Whatever, its a London thing. I’ll do bagels next week and a pesach theme the week after.
I made chollah for my first time last night, a beautiful and fat four-plat loaf which was, to be honest, too big for my oven. But like Chunk from the Goonies its all the more loveable because of its proportions.
I’ve no idea why a traditional chollah needs to contain chicken eggs, it worked really well vegan without them here.
So here goes what I did.
- 7.5 cups flour (1,7625ml)
- 50 grams dried yeast (from a sachet)
- 1 2/3 tsp salt
- 100ml sugar
- 2.5 cups water (587ml)
- a bit under 100ml vegetable oil.
- poppy seeds, sesame, or whatever you want for the toping (optional)
- a little bit of oat/soja/rice milk to glue your optional toping to the bread. Water may also work.
Instructions (rules are there to be…)
- Sift the flour into a big bowl.
- Stir in well the dry yeast, salt and sugar.
- Warm up the water in a microwave or hob until it becomes body temperature – I did this by sticking my finger in every so often until it felt nice – nice like a warm kiss rather than a hot tea or slush puppy nice. Add the warm water to the flour mix and mish it in as much as possible.
- Add the oil.
- Kneed. Kneeding always reminds me of what the glorious Mollie Katzenberg once wrote: one should kneed as one would massage. I like to think that I’m trying to promote a stress free environment for the yeast to come back to life in, not trying to start a fight like we do in some parts of the planet. (ooh) After about 5-10 minutes of kneeding my dough came out quite firm.
- Plonk dough in a greasy bowl and cover with the cleanest shamteh (rag) you can find. Place in a warm place, assuming you have one.
- Hopefully your dough will double in size after a while, mine took about 30-40 min.
- At that point comes my favourite bit, taught to me by my food blogger friend Jessie from Jessie And The Giant Plate (a serious Molly Katzenist, believe me), before her China expedition. Roll up your sleeves, click your jaw bone, clench your fist, take a deep breath and THWAP that dough with all the hatred and rage that the financial crisis has left you with. Vocalise the “thwap”. Do it, shout, put your whole soul in. Unlike humanity, yeast actually does form stronger bonds with a little violence. (Or does humanity also? Would there be solidarity without repression? Topic for another day.)
- Knead the dough again for a few minutes.
- Divide the dough up into as many plats as you want. As I said, I made a giant four plat chollah, but it would be more reasonable to make a couple of four or three plat chollahs, or three three plat ones. Your choice. Reasonable shmeaznable I say.
- Let the separated balls rise for 10 minutes, covered with a shmateh (remember, a rag, it just sounds better in Yiddish).
- Roll your balls into long suasages.
- Plat. Or, as I did, get someone with long hair to plat for you. They’ll probably know what they’re doing. If you can’t plat and don’t have such a person at hand, who cares, make a fun knot. You can also make cool chollah rolls by making a simple knot out of a single dough sausage.
- Leave to rise on a baking tray with baking paper (or grease) in a warm place for 20-30 minutes, covered with your trusty shmateh.
- Heat up the oven to 180°C whilst the dough rises this last time.
- If you want to add toppings to your chollahs, brush some oat/soya/rice milk on top of them and generously sprinkle on the seeds. As I said, if you don’t have any of these milks at hand you can try using water.
- Put your buns in the oven. Remember that if you’ve made different sizes you’ll need to take the smaller ones out sooner.
- When they’re like a Stanmore beck – hollow (try knocking the base) and golden brown – they’re ready! Mine took about 15 minutes. Put them on a cooling rack for a bit, or, well, scoff away.