Inspired by Tamar Ansh’s simple style and easy to follow instructions, I began the great challah project on Sunday morning with a trip to the market for yeast. I came home and mixed up the dough according to the instructions, rife with beautiful photos.
After I punched, kneaded and shaped the challahs, I created a variety of shapes using the excellent step-by-step instructions. As I baked the bread, the aroma wafted through the house and teenagers came running from every direction. Although the challahs looked good, were shaped well, and were baked well, they could have been more flavorful. The pecan/cinnamon was the favorite, and it was quite tasty.
As a resource, the step-by-step instructions and pictures are wonderful. I also enjoyed reading about the traditions, responsibilities and prayers surrounding the act of making Challah. The book includes heartwarming stories about bread baking as well as a comprehensive section on measurements and conversions. While the book is written for the observant challah maker, bakers from Judaism’s other branches will find the step-by-step instructions and photos that illustrate how to shape the dough an invaluable resource.
Recipe: Soft Pretzels
Makes approximately 25 – 30 medium size pretzels
2 cups warm water
40 grams/1.5 oz. fresh yeast granules
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup soft margarine or shortening
6 1/2 — 7 1/2 cups flour
Glaze for pretzels:
1 additional egg yolk + 2 T. water
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Pour this into a bowl and add the sugar, salt, margarine, egg, and 3 cups of flour. Mix until smooth.
Keep adding flour and mixing until the dough is a smooth and somewhat stiff consistency. Cover the bowl well and leave in refrigerator to rise for 2 hours or overnight.
Divide the dough into four sections. Each section should make 6 smaller portions of dough. Roll out each small portion into logs and shape into pretzel shapes. (see photo) Leave them to rise, covered loosely with plastic, until double in size, about 25 minutes. Mix the egg yolk and 2 T. water together. Brush this glaze over each pretzel with a soft bristled pastry brush. Sprinkle pretzels with coarse salt or sesame seeds and bake at 400 F/200 C for 15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy on top.
These pretzels are a fun and special treat and can be frozen after baked if necessary.
For cheese pretzels, roll out each portion of dough as you would for challah. Sprinkle each one with grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese and roll up. Continue as directed above by twisting these rolls into pretzel shapes and bake as directed.
For whole wheat pretzels:
Substitute light brown sugar for the white sugar. Use 4 cups whole wheat flour, 2 1/2 ‑3 1/2 cups white. Continue with rest of recipe as directed above. Pretzels featured in these pictures are whole wheat ones. (my idea: serve them with dips nearby and/or a bowl of soup.)
A Taste of Challah by Tamar Ash (Feldheim Publishers; 2007; Paperback $34.99)