TIPS FROM THE PROS ON MAKING YOUR OWN CHALLAH:
Leader of the North West London Great Challah Make, Rebbetzin Joanne Dove, and professional baker Tami Isaacs Pearce both make a lot of challah. Here are their pointers:
Yeast: use whichever type you prefer. Dove prefers fresh yeast “because you can see it’s active straight away” but Isaacs Pearce recommends easy-blend which goes straight into the flour.
Flour: both always use an extra-strong flour which has a high gluten content which means it will produce a stretchy dough that can hold plenty of air bubbles. Eggs: Isaacs Pearce recommends using the best quality eggs.
Electric mixer or by hand? For Dove, a mixer allows her to get on with her other Shabbat preparations and gives a lighter crumb. Isaacs Pearce thinks it worth kneading by hand “to really get to know your dough”.
In a hurry? Speed up rising time by using slightly warmer water — “I mix hot and cold,” says Dove. But don’t use boiling water which kills the yeast. “You can also speed up proving times if you put the plaited loaf in an oven set at 50°C.”
Wetter is better: the best dough is sticky. “If it’s really too sticky to handle, add extra four, but if only slightly sticky. Oil your hands instead,” says Dove.
There are tips on plaiting your challah in the Shabbat UK challah make booklet or watch the MMCC’s video tutorial ( see recipe,left).
You can make your dough the day before and refrigerate it overnight: “Keep it well covered,” says Isaacs Pearce. “It will take about an hour to come to room temperature — it will be doubled in size and the surface ‘skin’ still firm when ready to use.”
Freezing: Dove says: “You can freeze the dough, the raw plaited loaf of challah. Let it rise then knock it back. Freeze dough like that or plait then freeze. If baked then freeze as soon as it has cooled.”
Both affirm the importance of making the brachah when taking their piece of dough — see the Shabbat UK booklet. Says Dove: “It’s the most powerful time.”