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Onion Bialys (and English Muffin Variation)

Onion Bialys

 compressed platter of bialys yom kippur 2011

 

Special Equipment

  • 6- or 8-quart bowl, for rising dough
  • Wooden surface, for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • Set of quarry tiles or large pizza stone
  • Dark shallow baking sheet, only if not using quarry tiles or a pizza stone
  • Cast iron pan or heavy baking sheet
  • Baker’s peel or flat cookie sheet, only if using quarry tiles or a pizza stone

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, for greasing rising bowl
  • 1/3 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 rounded tablespoons solid shortening, melted
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, optional
  • 2 teaspoons barley malt extract or sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Up to 6 cups high gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Medium ground cornmeal, for dusting

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1 cup minced onions

1) To assemble sponge: Saute 1/3 cup minced onions in melted shortening until fragrant and softened, about 3 minutes. In the bowl to your electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment), combine 2 cups warm water, sauteed onions (with any shortening), optional pepper and barley malt or sugar.  Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar and add, when creamy, add to mixing bowl.  With the mixer on low, add 3 cups bread flour. When the flour absorbed, turn machine up to moderate and beat for 3 minutes, then scrape down sides of the bowl. If you do not have a mixer, use a wooden spoon. (Beat vigorously in one direction with the bowl of the spoon never leaving the bottom of the mixing bowl.) Cover bowl with plastic and allow sponge to rise for one hour and fifteen minutes.

2) To set up for completed dough: Brush a 6 quart mixing bowl with some melted butter and set aside.

3) To complete dough and rise twice: While sponge ferments, saute 1 cup minced onions in vegetable oil with poppy seeds for 3 to 5 minutes or until the onions are softened and fragrant. Allow to cool to warm.  When fermentation is completed, replace bowl with risen sponge onto your electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat in salt and 2 cups bread flour at low speed. When well combined, raise speed to moderate and continue to beat for 3 minutes to develop. Use a rubber spatula to help turn shaggy mass out onto a lightly floured wooden surface. Knead until smooth and very elastic. Add additional flour only if necessary, and always use your pastry scraper to keep dough from sticking to your hands or work surface. When sufficient texture is achieved, place dough into greased bowl. Brush surface of dough with more melted butter and cover bowl with buttered plastic wrap. Lay a clean kitchen towel over bowl and allow dough to rise for 1 to 2 hours. (Do what’s most convenient.)

4) To assemble topping, set up for shaping and baking bialys: Heat a 10 inch skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add vegetable oil. When oil is hot, add onions and poppy seeds. Saute onions until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind in some fresh pepper and set aside to cool. Position oven rack in the center of the oven . Place a cast iron pan or a heavy sheet pan on the rack below.  Place sheet of quarry tiles or a large pizza stone on rack above the skillet. (If you own a double oven, do the same to the remaining oven.). Sprinkle your baker’s peel with cornmeal. (Alternatively, if not using quarry tiles, brush the interior of 2 shallow dark steel baking sheets with vegetable oil and sprinkle with cornmeal.) Sprinkle two clean kitchen towels with cornmeal.

5) To shape bialys: Preheat oven to 500 F. Although this recipe yields twelve bialys, I suggest baking only six at one time to allow each one enough room to bake properly. If you have one oven, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Divide dough in half and replace one half to bowl and refrigerate. If working with a double oven,  dough in half then divide each half in half. Cut each quarter into three equal pieces for a total of 12 pieces.  Cover all the pieces while working with one at a time.  Shape each piece of dough into a flat round by rolling patting the dough out with your hand. Create a 1-inch rim by turning the rim round in towards the center to form a one inch raised border. Using your fingertips, pinch to seal. Using the tines of a fork, dock the center. As each bialy is shaped, carefully place onto prepared towels. Cover each shaped bialy with a kitchen towel.

6) To bake: After the last bialy is shaped,  begin with the first bialy shaped and dock (prick) the center.  Slightly flatten each risen bialy while gently widening the interior of the circle. (The flat middle portion should be quite visible.) Lift each bialy and place on prepared peel (6 bialys per peel or baking sheet). Spoon some of the onion-poppy seed filling into the center and continue until all are filled. (Make sure the onions are nicely coated with vegetable oil to help keep them from burning during baking.) Place 4 ice cubes into a 1-cup liquid measure and add enough water to meet the  1/4 cup mark. Place this next to the oven. Just before baking, pour the ice water into the preheated pan and shut the door. Lift the peel holding bialys and place it deep into the oven and, with one swift jerk, pull out peel, leaving the bialys on the hot tiles. (If not using tiles or a stone, simply place baking sheet(s) into the oven. Quickly shut the door to help trap steam. (If you have a double oven, repeat immediately with the remaining six bialys.)

8) Baking time: Bake bialys for 10 minutes. If planning to eat bialys right after cooling (without toasting), turn the oven off and leave bialys in a turned off oven for 5 minutes. If planning to cool, store and eventually toast bialys, remove from the oven after the initial, 10 minutes of baking (they might seem light and slightly underdone). Remove bialys to wire racks to cool thoroughly before storing.

Note: If planning to toast bialys (which is most traditional), the tops will become overly brittle in the toaster if the initial baking time is too long.

9) To serve and store: Before serving, use a serrated knife to slice each bialy and toast until golden and crisp. Top lavishly as desired and enjoy hot.

To turn your bialy dough into delicious English Muffins!

Assemble the dough as directed and, after completing its rise, deflate the dough. Rub an even layer of flour mixed with cornmeal onto your work surface and turn the dough out onto one end of that surface.  Rub some flour into your rolling pin and roll the dough out to an even thickness of 1 inch.

Using a floured 3-inch round cutter with a plain edge (not fluted), cut out as many rounds as possible and transfer each round to the other side of your prepared work surface (if the round ever sticks, run the blade of a pastry scraper underneath it). Cover the rounds as you continue to dip the cutter into flour and cut the remaining rounds. Gently knead your scraps, trying to make them cohesive, then roll them out the same way as before and cut out more rounds. You should be able to get eleven three-inch, 1-inch thick rounds. Cover the rounds with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.

(Alternatively, after the dough has its initial rise, deflate it and chill overnight, in the original bowl, well covered. The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge, then roll and cut the dough into rounds as described (cold) and let the rounds rise until billowy and close to room temperature (1 to 2 hours).

Heat a large cast iron skillet or fajitas pan (or a large nonstick skillet), over medium heat with enough clarified butter to create a thin, even layer across the bottom. When the fat is hot, reduce the heat to medium-low and lay the muffins in the pan, in a single layer, with 1 ½ inches in between them (you won’t be able to cook them all at one time unless you’re using two pans). Sear the muffins on the first side for 5 minutes, or until light golden brown. Turn the muffins over and sear on the second side. Cover the pans (with a lid) or with a large, inverted stainless bowl) and reduce the heat to low. Steam the muffins for 5 minutes (8 to 10 minutes if they are at all chilled), then uncover and raise the heat to medium. Sear again on the bottoms, and then turn the muffins to make sure that both sides are crisp and golden brown. The exterior centers will be light and will feel soft but set. To serve: Using a fork, pierce the center of the circumference of the muffin, repetitively, going all around the soft center. Gently pull the top and bottom away from each other, exposing the interior. Toast the muffins (or, if freshly cooked, simply broil the muffin, inside facing toward heat source) until golden.

 

Comments (7)

Easy Cinnamon Buns

This recipe is so easy and produces tender cinnamon buns that are golden brown and so delicious! Although, in my show, Baking Made Easy, I say that this dough can be made the night before and chilled overnight, for best texture, I do suggest making the dough first thing in the morning. This is one of the few times I use a fast acting yeast –so the process of making and serving fresh-baked cinnamon buns first thing in the morning, really is doable. The night before, just have your fillings all measured out, your egg-wash made and chilled, as well as your powdered sugar sifted and ready for the glaze. Lining your baking sheets with parchment, the night before, also helps to make things go seamlessly in the morning.

Just to get you in the mood…

Ingredients for the Dough

  • Up to 3 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 envelope rapid rise yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fine table salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 / 2 cup milk
  • 1 / 4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature

For the Cinnamon-Raisin Filling

  • 1 / 4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup raisins (mix light and dark)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the Maple-Egg Glaze:

  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

For the Powdered Sugar Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk, or as needed

 

To assemble the dough: In a large bowl, combine 2-1 / 2 cups flour, sugar, un-dissolved yeast, and salt. Heat water, milk, and butter until very warm (120o to 130oF). Gradually add to flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer (with the paddle attachment), scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the egg and 1 more cup of flour; beat 2 minutes at a moderately high speed. Using a wooden spoon, stir in just enough remaining flour to make the dough leave the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Cover with a towel and; let rest 15 minutes.

Assemble the fillings:  In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon with a whisk. Put raisins in another bowl.

Assemble the cinnamon buns and let them rise: Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions; roll each portion to approximately 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Brush each liberally with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (use fingers to help coat dough evenly), then scatter the raisins on top (use half of each for each half of dough) Beginning at short end, roll up tightly as for jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. With a sharp serrated knife, cut each roll into 7 pieces. Place, cut sides up, on prepared baking sheet(s). Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Or, for morning buns, cover the buns with a clean kitchen towel, and then again with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. In the morning, preheat the oven to between 350Fand 375F and allow the buns to sit out of refrigeration for 1 to 1 1/2 hours before glazing.

Glaze and bake: Mix the egg with the water and maple syrup. Strain into another bowl. Brush the buns with the glaze and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through (rotate the sheet front to back once during baking and, if becoming overly brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil (shiny side up). Remove from the oven and let buns sit on the sheet for 5 minutes.

Prepare the powdered sugar glaze: While the buns bake, assemble the powdered sugar glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and enough milk to make a glaze that’s thick but able to be drizzled luxuriously. Remove to a wire rack that sits over wax paper. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze. (Alternatively, you can spoon and then spread the glaze over the warm buns.)

 

Comments (11)

Panettone

I know, I know…this isn’t a quick recipe but it’s not hard if you get set up correctly and plan your timing accordingly. If you don’t have a large, heavy duty electric mixer, after stirring in the risen sponge and the candied fruit, knead the rest of the flour in by hand on a heavily floured work surface, using a pastry scraper as your aid. And, if the scraper ever gets coated in dough, rub some flour onto the sticky blade—which will help the scraper keep from sticking to the dough, while kneading. It’s important to bake the panettone fully—so that the center of the loaf is fully cooked. This is why I give such a wide temperature range (60 to 90 minutes!). And it’s also why this is the only bread recipe where I suggest using an instant thermometer (and baking until an internal temperature of 190F and 195F is reached)–especially since these loaves will become brown long before they are done baking. The toothsome texture of this panettone is hauntingly good and is particularly great when made with homemade candied citron (either alone or in combination with other homemade candied citrus. My favorite way to enjoy this wonderful loaf is sliced, toasted and served with cream cheese for breakfast!

Special equipment:

  • Large, heavy-duty electric mixer with one central paddle attachment
  • Microplane zester (only if using citrus zest)
  • Pastry scraper
  • 2 large paper panettone molds measuring 6 ¾ inches in diameter and 4 ½ inches in height)
  • Large shallow baking sheet
  • Instant thermometer

For the macerated raisins:

  • 1 1/2 cups raisins (mix light and dark)
  • 1 1/3 cups dark rum

Sponge:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored honey
  • 3 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 cups high-gluten bread flour

To complete the dough:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine table salt
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract for the dough and ¼ teaspoon vanilla for the glaze
  • 2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • ½ cup reserved rum (after steeping and draining raisins), rewarmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons strained fresh lemon or orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced orange or lemon zest
  • 2/3 rounded cup minced candied citron (either use all citron or, if homemade isn’t available, use all homemade candied orange and lemon rind, as a last resort, use 1/3 cup store-bought citron and 1/3 cup minced candied lemon or orange rind)
  • ½ rounded cup sliced or chopped candied cherries
  • Up to 5 1/2 cups bread flour (not including flour for dusting when shaping)
  • Glaze: 1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, 2 tablespoons reserved rum and ¼ teaspoon vanilla

1) To steep (macerate) the raisins in rum: Place 1 ½ cups raisins into a small, nonreactive saucepan and add the rum. Heat the liquid until it just starts to bubble, then turn off the heat, stir the contents and allow the raisins to macerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or longer). Drain and reserve the rum and raisins separately.

2) For the sponge: While the raisins steep, heat one cup milk with 2 tablespoons water and, when just warm to the touch, stir into a 2 ½ to 3 quart mixing bowl. Stir in the honey, and then sprinkle on the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve naturally for a few minutes. Once dissolved, add 2 cups bread flour and stir vigorously for 2 minutes, creating a mixture that is smooth and seemingly elastic—(stir briskly). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Drape a clean kitchen towel over the top of the bowl and let it rest in a warm, draft-free spot for 1 hour.

3) For the dough: Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the softened butter with the sugar and salt. Beat the eggs and yolks with 1 teaspoon vanilla in a measuring cup (with a spout) using a fork. When the butter is light, add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. While beating in the eggs, gently rewarm ½ cup of the reserved rum in a nonreactive saucepan. Add to the mixer bowl, the sour cream, warmed rum, citrus juice and zest and beat until combined (expect the mixture to look quite curdled at this point—this is fine). Turn the machine off and scrape down the bowl as necessary. Uncover the sponge and, after stirring it down, add the entire mixture to the mixer bowl. Turn the machine back on and combine well. Add 2 cups of bread flour and mix until smooth and glutinous. Add the drained raisins, the citron along with the candied cherries and beat again until incorporated. Add another cup of flour and beat it in well. Add one more cup of flour, this time in ½ cup increments, beating in each before adding the next. Beat again until well combined. Turn the machine off and scrape the dough from the paddle.

4) Finish the dough: Brush an 8 quart bowl with melted butter and set aside. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and, with floured hands, knead the dough until smooth and somewhat elastic, adding only as much flour as you need. (You shouldn’t need more than 1 1/2 total after taking the bowl off the machine.) Use your scraper to remove the dough cleanly off the board, as you knead. (Expect the dough to always be quite moist.)

5) To rise the dough: Place the dough into the buttered bowl. Brush the top of the dough with melted butter and cover the bowl with well-greased plastic wrap and a clean towel. Place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until billowy and almost double in bulk, about 3 hours.

6) About a second rise: You have a timing choice. Although you can shape the dough now, for the best, lightest, texture and a more developed flavor, punch the dough down, turn the dough over in the bowl and recover the dough to let it rise again for about 2 hours. If timing is an issue, either skip this second rise or punch down the dough and shape the dough as directed but allow it to rest in the refrigerator overnight (covered with a towel and then with a sheet of plastic wrap). The next morning, allow the dough to reach a billowy state, which can take several hours to accomplish.

7) To cut the dough: Place 2 nonstick paper panettone molds on a wire rack that fits inside a large shallow baking sheet. Uncover the dough and punch it down. Turn the dough out of the bowl and onto a very lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly and gently. Use a pastry scraper to divide the dough in half. Shape each half of the dough into a round and place the round into the paper mold (smoothest side up). In order to have the dough rise up and out of the paper molds, cut off a 1 generous inch off the top of the paper. The dough will be about 1 1/2 inches below the rim, initially. (Cutting the mold is not mandatory, just a choice and will determine how much of the baked panettone will be exposed.) Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap that’s been generously sprayed with vegetable spray, then place a clean kitchen towel over the plastic and allow the shaped loaves to rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the dough is billowy and reaches ½ to 1 ½ inches above the top of the mold. (If you’ve skipped the second rise, for best texture, it’s especially important to allow the shaped dough to rise fully.)

8) To bake: Preheat the oven to 375F for 30 minutes before baking. Glaze the top of the risen dough with an egg wash made by mixing 1 egg with 1 tablespoon milk, 2 tablespoons reserved rum from soaking raisins and ¼ teaspoon vanilla—Strain this into another small bowl. (Depending on how long you’ve macerated the raisins, this will determine how much rum you will have reserved. If you don’t have enough, just add two more tablespoons rum to the glaze.) Bake the panettone in a preheated 375F oven until an internal temperature reaches between 190F and 195F when an instant thermometer is inserted deeply into the top center, 60 to 90 minutes. (After about 20 minutes, once golden, cover the loaves loosely with foil (shiny side up) and continue to bake this way. Bake uncovered for the last few minutes. Let cool completely on the wire rack. To slice, cut the loaf in half through the paper, then peel off the paper and place each half of the loaf (cut side down) on a cutting board. Cut into thin slices.

 

 

 

Comments (3)

Country White Bread

Special Equipment:

  • Pastry brush
  • Large (8-quart) bowl, to rise assembled dough
  • Wooden surface, for kneading (or use a rubber kneading mat)
  • Pastry scraper
  • Three (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans

For country white bread:

  • About 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, as needed
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar or mild-flavored honey, for the dough, plus a pinch of sugar, for the yeast
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 extra-large yolks, at room temperature
  • 5 cups high-protein bread flour
  • Up to 5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, including flour for dusting

1) To set up to assemble the dough: Use some of the melted butter to grease the interior of an 8-quart mixing bowl. Set that bowl aside.

2) To assemble the dough and let rise twice: Scald the milk with the shortening and add 6 tablespoons of the melted butter. Pour the hot milk mixture into another large mixing bowl and add the salt and 1/2 cup sugar or honey. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar and allow it to become bubbly, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the whole eggs and yolks, into the milk mixture, then add the dissolved yeast. Stir in 5 cups bread flour, 1 1/2 cups at a time, then add enough all purpose flour, cup by cup, to create a somewhat stiff, shaggy mass, that’s no longer easily stirred.
Use a sturdy rubber spatula to scrape the mass out onto a floured surface and knead it,
until you’ve created a dough that’s smooth and elastic, adding only as much additional flour as is needed to keep the dough from sticking. Place the dough into the greased bowl and brush the top with more melted butter. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise, in a warm draft-free spot, for 2 hours. Uncover the dough and deflate it, with several swift swats with the back of your hand. Turn the dough over in the bowl and knead it, gently, to redistribute the yeast. Recover the bowl and let the dough rise again, for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until very light and billowy.

3) To shape and rise the loaves: First brush three 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with melted butter and set them aside. Turn the risen dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead it gently and briefly. Use your pastry scraper to divide the dough into three equal portions and cover them while working with one at a time. Roll one piece into an 8 x 10-inch rectangle, with one short end close to you. Starting at the top short end, that’s furthest from you, roll the dough down snugly towards you. After each revolution, use the thumb on your working hand to press down and connect the interior wall of the roll to the bottom of the dough. When you reach the bottom, pinch the last inch of dough onto the roll, so it adheres. Working with one end at a time, press each coiled spiral of dough, in toward the center of the log. Pinch the top and bottom outer rims of dough together, elongating this part slightly, and attach it to the bottom seam, rounding off and sealing each end.

Lay the loaf, seam side down in a prepared loaf pan and use your hands to gently plump and correct the shape. Cover the loaf with a clean kitchen towel and repeat this same procedure with the remaining dough. Let the loaves rise for 45 minutes, in a draft-free spot.

4) To bake: Twenty minutes before the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 400oF, if using metal pans and 375oF, if using glass. Just before placing the loaves into the hot oven, brush the tops with melted butter. Bake the loaves in the middle of the oven, with 1 1/2-inches in between them, for 30 to 35 minutes, covering loosely with aluminum foil (dull side up) for the last 10 minutes, if becoming overly brown. Remove the loaves from the oven and turn them out of their pans, onto wire racks. Give the bottom of each loaf a good tap on its bottom, which should sound hollow. If not, put them back into the oven (on a shallow baking sheet), for a few more minutes. When done, remove the loaves from the oven and, for the softest crusts, brush the tops with more melted butter. Let the loaves cool completely, on wire racks, before slicing.

A word about oven space: If all three loaves won’t fit in your oven, bake two risen loaves at once, while the third rises in the refrigerator, covered. When the first two loaves enter the oven, remove the third from the refrigerator, letting it rise, until the desired volume is achieved. Bake as directed.

Timing is Everything

The dough can be made two days ahead of baking. After the first punch down, cover the bowl securely with the original greased plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil. Before shaping, let the dough sit out of refrigeration until it becomes room temperature (which can take 4 hours). Shape, rise and bake, as directed.

To freeze these loaves, don’t apply the last application of melted butter, after baking, which tends to create a shriveled look, in frozen breads. When fully cool, wrap the loaf in a double layer of aluminum foil, then slip the loaf inside a large heavy-duty freezer bag and freeze it for up to 1 month.

Watch the Video.

Comments (5)

Let’s Have a Pizza Party! (with Focaccia and Grissini Variations)

To watch the video of me making pizza, click here. You can see me making Focaccia and grissini from pizza dough in an episode of Baking Made Easy with Lauren.

Special Equipment:

  • 5-quart mixing bowl, for rising dough
  • Wooden surface, for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • Set of quarry tiles or a large pizza stone
  • Two perforated 15-inch pizza pans, for baking pizza
  • Docker or the tines of a large serving fork
  • Food processor (optional), for grating cheese
  • Baker’s peel, to remove baked pizzas from oven
  • Two non-perforated 15-inch pizza pans, for serving baked pizzas to prevent sauce and cheese from running through holes
  • Pizza wheel, the larger the better!

Ingredients

  • About 3 tablespoons Garlic Confit Oil, or use extra-virgin olive oil, used as needed
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water for yeast, plus 2 cups lukewarm water for dough
  • Pinch, plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 scant tablespoon salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • Up to 6 1/2 cups flour (unbleached, all-purpose or use high-gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting (or use a combination of whole wheat flour and high gluten bread flour and use white flour for dusting
  • Cornmeal, for pizza pans (preferably medium-ground)
  • Glaze (optional): 1 egg white, at room temperature, mixed with 1 teaspoon water
  • Sesame seeds (optional), for topping rim of pizza

Basic Topping Suggestions:

Additional Topping Suggestions:

  • Cleaned, sliced and sautéed Mushrooms
  • Thinly sliced pepperoni
  • Fresh Chopped Garlic
  • Thinly Sliced Onions or Leeks, sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil (see videos)
  • Drained and coarsely chopped firm anchovy fillets
  • Small cubes of eggplant, lightly tossed in seasoned flour and pan-fried in olive oil
  • Diced potatoes, boiled 5 minutes, drained and pan-fried
  • Pitted and Sliced Kalamata olives
  • Roasted Red and Yellow Bell Peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • Fresh Italian sausage, removed from casings and sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil with minced onion and garlic
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (be careful)

1) To set up: Brush the interior of a 5-quart mixing bowl generously with olive oil and set aside for rising dough.

2) To assemble liquid mixture: Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 2 cups lukewarm water, 1 generous tablespoon of the olive oil, salt, the 2 teaspoons sugar, and pepper, if using. When yeast mixture is creamy and starting to bubble, add to mixing bowl and briskly stir in just enough flour, a little at a time, to create a mass that is not easily stirred in the bowl. Turn out dough onto a lightly flour wooden board. Using floured hands, knead dough in a brisk push-fold-and-turn motion, until perfectly smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add only as much additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to your hands and work surface. Use a pastry scraper while kneading to scrape dough off board cleanly as you continue to knead in a sufficient amount of flour.

3) To rise dough twice: Place dough in the prepared rising bowl and turn to coat it with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and then with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, about 2 hours. Punch down dough with several swift swats with the back of your hand until dough is totally deflated. Although dough can be used right away, it’s preferable to refrigerate it for at least 1 hour and as long as 2 days before shaping crusts. (This chilling relaxes this high-gluten dough so it won’t fight back as much when being stretched into shape. This extra time also allows the dough to develop a deeper, more satisfying flavor.)

4) To set up to pre-bake crusts: Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and, if using, place a sheet of quarry tiles or a large pizza stone onto rack. Preheat the oven to 450o F for at least 30 minutes before baking. Lightly brush both perforated pizza pans with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal; tilt to coat pans and tap out excess meal. If using, set egg-white glaze and sesame seeds next to your work surface.

5) To shape pizza dough: Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead just to release air pockets. Using the blade of a pastry scraper, divide dough into 2 equal pieces. If dough is not chilled, cover and let rest for 10 minutes to relax dough. If not working with a double oven and thus can only bake 1 crust at a time, return half the dough to the bowl, cover and refrigerate until the first pizza crust goes into the oven. Pat the remaining half dough into a low round on the floured work surface.

6) To stretch dough: Spread the fingers of your hand and smack dough several times until visibly flattened but still round. Flour your fists, lift up dough and drape it (centered) over your floured fists. Stretch dough by pointing your fists upward and gently pulling them away from each other. Take care to stretch evenly; if dough starts to feel bottom heavy and is becoming too thin, lay it on your work surface, rearrange it, then lift and continue to stretch. Use as much flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to your hands, which can cause it to tear. (Be aware that if you’ve used whole grain flour in your dough, this will reduce the overall elasticity, making the dough more likely to tear when stretching.)

7) To place dough in pan: Lay stretched dough in the prepared pan, arranging it so the edges of dough meet the rim. Press and pat out dough until it totally covers the pan, building up the rim of dough so it’s a little thicker and higher than the interior of the circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just not overly thick in one spot and paper thin in another. If dough resists at any point, just throw a towel over it for 5 minutes. If dough should tear, just pinch it together with floured fingertips. And if the rim seems too thin, simply fold 1 inch of the edge over onto itself and press to adhere.

8) To prepare crust for pre-baking: Brush the interior of the circle (excluding the 1-inch rim) with some olive oil and prick the oiled section of the dough deeply all over with a docker or the prongs of a large fork. Sprinkle oiled dough with freshly ground black pepper. If desired, brush the raised rim of dough with egg white glaze and sprinkle rim generously with sesame seeds.

9) To pre-bake crust: Prick the interior surface of crust once more and place pizza pan directly on hot tiles, stone or oven rack and shut the oven door. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. (Check once during baking. If the center starts to bubble up, prick the interior again and continue baking.) Remove pan from oven using a baker’s peel and place it on a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, as crust is baking, remove the reserved half of dough from refrigerator and prepare the second crust completely through the preceding step. As soon as you remove the first crust from the oven, prick the second crust again, place in oven and bake, as directed above.

10) To set up for baking topped pizza: After pre-baking the crust is sealed so, if you like, you may remove quarry tiles or pizza stone from oven. If baking 2 pizzas in the same oven, position oven racks to the upper and lower thirds; if using a double oven, use the center rack for each pizza. Preheat oven to 450o F, for at least 1 hour.

11) To assemble the pizzas: Scatter some grated cheese over the interior of the pre-baked crust. Spoon or ladle about 1 cup sauce on top of cheese (not too much or your pizza will be soupy). Spread sauce over crust, stopping just before the rim. Scatter one or more of the suggested toppings over sauce, along with chopped basil leaves. Scatter half of the grated cheese over the top, allowing some of the toppings to be visible through cheese. Drizzle 1 teaspoon fruity olive oil over pizza and then finally top with some sliced pepperoni, if desired. Grind on some fresh black pepper. Repeat with the remaining pizza.

12) To bake and serve completed pizza: Bake pizzas in the hot oven until crust is deeply golden, toppings are piping hot and cheese is bubbling, about 20 minutes. If using the same oven for both pizzas, switch positions of pies after half the baking time for even heat exposure. To serve, insert a baker’s peel under the pizza pan and place the pie on a solid (non-perforated) pizza pan. Slice into wedges using a pizza wheel and serve immediately.

Free-Form Pizzas Baked Directly on Quarry Tiles or a Pizza Stone

Although not necessary, allowing the dough (as described above) to rise for an hour or two at room temperature (especially when baking a free-form raw pizza) contributes to an even lighter texture and also deepens the flavor of the baked crust. You do not need a perforated pizza pan for this method (but you will need a solid one, without holes, for serving) and you do not need to pre-bake the crust before assembling and baking. Position the rack and quarry tiles or pizza stone as directed for pre-baking crusts. When preheating, increase the oven temperature to 550 F (or the highest your oven will go, without activating the broiler). If the dough is chilled, allow it to sit out of the refrigerator (uncovered) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (the top of the dough will develope a slight skin which is good–since this will be inverted as the bottom of the crust, and will help the assembled pizza to release from the peel. Sprinkle a baker’s peel generously with cornmeal and a bit of white flour and rub this into the peel, covering it completely. Place the dough onto the prepared peel (top side down) and stretch dough as directed. Rearrange the thin round, to correct the shape. Brush the interior of dough with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh pepper. Docking is not advised or necessary since the weight of the toppings will prevent dough from swelling underneath. (If applying seeds to the rim, be careful not to let the egg white drip onto the baker’s peel since this will cause dough to stick to the peel.)

Top dough as you would a pre-baked crust, without using too many toppings which will weigh the dough down. Lift the loaded baker’s peel and give it a gentle shake to make sure that the pizza is not stuck. Open oven door and insert peel all the way to the back of the oven. With one swift jerk, remove peel, leaving the pizza on the hot tiles. Bake until golden and bubbling, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove pizza by sliding the peel underneath it and place on a non-perforated pizza pan. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Game Plan for a Pizza Party

The day before serving, prepare a double batch of dough (2 separate dough) and either rise it once at room temperature for 2 hours, then release the gases, turn the dough over in the bowl, and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight, well covered. You can also divide the dough immediately after assembling and, after shaping into two taut rounds and placing them on separate oiled baking sheets, cover the sheet with well oiled plastic wrap and then with a towel and refrigerate, well covered, several hours or overnight. Make your sauce and grate your cheese. Early the next day, pre-bake 4 crusts and, once cool, let them sit “stacked” at room temperature. A few hours before “show time,” remove the sauce from refrigerator and gather your assorted toppings. 3o minutes to 1 hour before “chow time,” preheat oven and ask your guests “who wants what” on their pizza. Then, assemble and bake away!

Timing is Everything:

  • After the dough completes the first rise at room temperature, it can remain in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before shaping.
  • The sauce can be made well in advance and frozen in small heavy-duty freezer containers.
  • The crusts can be partially pre-baked early in the day and left at room temperature.
  • The toppings can be gathered a couple of hours before assembling pizzas.
  • After pre-baking and cooling the crust, you can either freeze the empty crust or a fully assemble pizza. Wrap both well in aluminum foil. Let an empty crust thaw (wrapped) before topping it and baking. Bake a fully assembled frozen pizza directly from the freezer (unwrapped) on a perforated pizza pan in a preheated 400o F oven until crisp and hot throughout.

Tip: Grating Cheese in a Food Processor

Before adding cheese to the work bowl of a food processor, brush the steel blade lightly with vegetable oil. Cut cheese into small pieces and use the pulsing button to maintain best control. If grating in batches, remove the first batch of grated cheese before adding the next batch. Also, when emptying the work bowl (between batches), check the inside of the steel blade shaft for any stray pieces of cheese (especially the softer types of cheese) and remove them. Otherwise, when you reinsert the blade onto the shaft, the cheese acts like glue and it might be difficult to remove the blade.

Watch the Video. Below are instructions to use pizza dough to make focaccia and grissini!

 Delicious things to do with pizza dough!

Focaccia with Heirloom Tomatoes, Hot Cherry Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Fresh Mozzarella, Garlic and Herbs.

For focaccia, although using unbleached all purpose flour is perfectly fine, I prefer to use OO flour for the lightest texture in focaccia (available in Italian markets). There’s also a very similar product, sold by the name “Italian Style” flour, which is very good. I also like OO flour for grissini. I often use a combo. If making pizza and wanting to make focaccia or grissini the next day, I suggest either using all “all purpose” flour or a combination.

Ingredients:

  • 1 /2 pizza dough, assembled as directed above and fully risen.

 Reminder as to how to assemble the dough:

  • Brush the interior of a 5-quart mixing bowl generously with some of the oil and sprinkle the interior with freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar and allow it to become visibly bubbly, about 3 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, and a few more grinds of black pepper, if desired. Add the dissolved yeast. Gradually stir in only enough flour, 1 cup at a time, to create a shaggy mass, that’s no longer easily stirred.
  • Use a sturdy rubber spatula to scrape the mass out onto a floured surface and knead it until you’ve created a dough that’s smooth and elastic, adding only as much additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Place the dough into the greased bowl and turn it over to coat the exterior with the flavored oil. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and set it aside in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. (If time is an issue, you can immediately go to the following step without allowing the dough to rise.)
  • Rub a shallow tray liberally with olive oil. Uncover the dough and deflate it, using several swift swats with the back of your hand. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using your pastry scraper, divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, use your hands to cup, rotate and plump the dough, creating a taut round and place each one, side by side, on the prepared tray. Brush the top lightly with olive oil, as well. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel, then place two large, overlapping and loosely fitting sheets of plastic wrap on top. Refrigerate the dough for 4 to 48 hour

To shape and bake focaccia with pizza dough:

Here (above) one half of the chilled dough is placed onto a sheet of unbleached parchment paper (that’s sitting on a wooden pizza peel—or you can use a flat baking sheet). The paper should first be generously sprayed with olive oil and then sprinkled with a mixture of cornmeal, black pepper and even sesame seeds (optional). As soon as the dough goes onto the parchment, the oven gets preheated to 450F with a pizza stone on the center shelf and, on the rack beneath it, a heavy pan (cast iron or a heavy baking sheet). If you need to omit the pan beneath the stone, this is fine—but the stone is something I highly suggest for the best texture.

After correcting the round shape of the dough, you’ll brush the top and sides with a fresh-herb-garlic-oil (olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes and an assortment of herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage (not basil which turns black) and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours, uncovered, for a well-chilled pizza dough. The oven should be well preheated. After rising for 30 minutes, instead of poking the dough (to give a focaccia a traditional dimpled look), you’ll plant halved heirloom cherry tomatoes (cut sides up) and I also added pitted olives, fresh mozzarella cheese and some sliced cherry peppers. This is all about having fun—working with what you have and “playing” with the design. Brush the embellishments with the garlic oil, then let the dough continue to rise, uncovered until very billowy (1 ½ hours should be enough). Brush once more with the oil, give the top a light application of Kosher salt and black pepper and then slide the dough onto a hot pizza stone (with steam) –meaning add a cup of ice cubes with a small amount of water into the pan that sits beneath the pizza stone)—then add the dough on the parchment—and bake for 18 to 20 minutes (18 is best if using a convection mode). Then, I opened the oven and carefully sprinkled the top with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and baked for another 3 or 5 minutes (3 is best with convection).

Remove the focaccia to a wire rack and immediately brush the top and sides with more of the garlic-herb-oil. Allow the bread to cool to just warm before cutting into wedges and enjoying.

For grissini: Per each half of pizza dough: 14 to 16 grissini (12 to 14 inches long)

Use 1/2 pizza dough: Chill the dough after assembling (or after an initial rise) then (using one half of the dough) cut into small portions. Roll each into a thin rope (using finely ground semolina sprinkled on the work surface. Let rise on parchment or (preferably) on a silicon baking mat sprinkled with semolina (you’ll need two large baking sheets to accommodate all of the grissini-if only one is available, keep one half of the dough, uncut, in the refrigerator). If, after shaping the first sheet pan of grissini, you see some are a bit chubbier than others, one by one, lift them off of the sheet and gently reroll to elongate and correct shape (you can sprinkle the work surface a bit more semolina, to help the strands keep from sticking).  Brush with a garlic-herb-olive oil mixture (the same as used for the focaccia), sprinkle the top with pepper and shredded Parmesan and bake in a preheated 375F oven for about 18 to 20 (rotate the pan during baking) and then allow to sit in a turned off for 10 to 13 minutes or until light golden brown but not overly dark. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve standing up in a tall glass or vase—or laying down in a basket (traditionally, in northern Italy, grissini is served simply placed directly on the table cloth). If any of the grissini feel at all squishy, put them back in the turned off oven to allow them to dry. (For sesame grissini, shape the same way, but after the strands are thin, sprinkle the work surface with some seeds and a bit more semolina and continue to roll so that some of the seeds sink into the surface of the dough (roll gently). Once shaped and on their sheets, brush the surface with some egg white glaze (1 egg white beaten with a fork and a small splash of water and then strained into another bowl). Sprinkle the tops of the strands with more seeds and some Kosher salt. Bake as directed above.

Optional glaze for seeded topping: brush the grissini with egg white mixed with a bit of water and then strained. Seed the top with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc. Bake as described. Those grissini that are simply seeded might need to be baked a bit less since the cheese on the first variation is insulating—go for color and texture.

Note: Drying time will largely depend on the girth of each grissini—so, once the correct color is achieved, let dry as long as needed, checking after 10 minutes.  Very thin grissini will not need to bake or dry as long—and will need to be removed early so that they don’t taste bitter or get overly hard.

 

Comments (7)

Six-Strand Challah

This recipe is very special to me; it was my “signature” bread at the very beginning of my culinary career. Traditionally, in the Jewish religion, braided challah is eaten with dinner every Friday to celebrate the Sabbath. Symbolically, the woven, knobby shape of the braid is meant to reflect the forever winding and sometimes bumpy road of life. I thought you’d enjoy knowing the easy step-by-step professional formula for making a six-strand braid at home.

Following are the directions to make two voluptuous six-strand braided loaves, or three 8 x 4-inch loaves with or without raisins. This challah dough is not parve. If Kosher and using for a meal that contains meat, make the changes suggested in the recipe.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information. And, if making yeast bread is new for you, you can go to this page on “Food Matters A to Z,” to learn about how things work. You can also check out the previews of my Pizza video and/or my Country White Bread video to see if you’d like to watch them in their entirety

Special Equipment

  • 8-quart mixing bowl, for rising the dough
  • Wooden surface for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • A good pair of hands!

For the challah dough:

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, for the dough, plus 3 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar, for the dough, plus a pinch of sugar, for the yeast
  • 1 tablespoon mild-flavored honey
  • 2 cups mixed light and dark moist raisins (optional)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • Up to 6 cups high-protein bread flour, including flour for dusting
  • Medium-ground cornmeal, as needed, for sprinkling
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and/or kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
  • Egg Glaze: 1 egg beaten with 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water

Ingredients note: If wanting to prepare a Kosher (parve) challah, one that can be eaten with both meat and dairy, substitute water (or try coconut milk) for the milk and use an equal amount of non-dairy (stick) margarine for the butter or use corn oil, reducing it to 1/3 cup).

1) To set up to make the dough: Use some of the melted butter to grease the interior of an 8-quart mixing bowl. Set that bowl aside. Spread two overlapping sheets of plastic wrap near the greased bowl and brush some of the butter onto the wrap.

2) To make the dough and rise it twice: Warm the milk in a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and add 8 tablespoons of melted butter. Stir in 1/3 cup sugar along with the honey, salt and the raisins, if using. Let the milk cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar and allow it to become bubbly, about 3 minutes. Add the dissolved yeast to the warm milk mixture, along with the eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon, to break up the eggs, then stir in enough flour, cup by cup, to create a somewhat stiff, shaggy mass, that’s no longer easily stirred.

Using a sturdy rubber spatula, scrape the mass on to a floured surface and knead it until you’ve created a dough that’s smooth and elastic, adding only as much additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Place the dough into the greased bowl and brush the top with more melted butter. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot, until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours (dough with raisins will require the longer rise). Uncover the dough and punch it down, with several swift swats with the back of your hand. Turn the dough over in the bowl and knead, gently, to redistribute the yeast. Recover the bowl and let the dough rise again, until very light and billowy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

3) To shape braided loaves: Preheat the oven(s) to 375°F. Line 2 large shallow baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle the paper with cornmeal. Gather your choice of seeds, if using, and place them next to the bowl of glaze. Turn the fully risen dough out onto your lightly floured work surface and divide the dough in half using your pastry scraper. Cover one half, while working with the other. (If not working with a double oven, refrigerate half of the dough, in its original bowl, covered.)

Divide one half of dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a strand, about 10 inches long, with tapered ends and slightly chubby centers. (Use extra flour, only as necessary, to keep dough from sticking.) Position the strands vertically in front of you and pinch the ends farthest from you at the top, together, attaching them. Number the strands from 1 to 6, starting at the strand to the far left. (See braiding technique below.)
Please print the following procedure and read it carefully before beginning. Keep these instructions within easy view, as you shape your braided loaves.

Braiding Steps: Spread the strands, so they all have some space between them, staying connected on top. Number the position of each strand from 1 to 6, starting at the far left. (No matter how the strands are arranged the numbers stay the same.)

1) Take strand #6 and bring it over to become #1.
2) Strand #2 goes over #6 and becomes #6.
3) Strand #1 goes across and over strand #3, and becomes #3.
4) Strand #5 goes over #1 and becomes #1.
5) Strand #6 crosses over #4 and becomes #4.
6) Repeat steps 2 through 6 (not # 1) until you reach the bottom of the strands.

When you reach the bottom of the braid, pinch the ends together to secure them. Tuck the ends on both sides, underneath the braid, plumping it nicely. Place the braid on one of the baking sheets and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes. (If working with a double oven, repeat this same procedure with the remaining half of dough. If not, wait until the first loaf enters the oven to remove the second half from the refrigerator and shape that braid.)

After a 20-minute rise, uncover the braid and brush the dough, all over, with the egg glaze. Leave the loaf uncovered, for the remaining 5 minutes. Just before baking, give the dough another coat of glaze and, if desired, sprinkle the top, decoratively, with one or more type of the seeds. Sprinkle the top lightly with salt, if desired, and bake the braid(s) at 375°F, until golden and the loaves feel light and sound hollow when lifted and tapped on the bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. As the dough bakes, it will expand, exposing new, unglazed dough. To prevent uneven browning, check the braids 20 minutes after they enter the oven and, working quickly, brush any whiter parts of dough with some reserved glaze. Quickly sprinkle those sections with some seeds, if using, and continue to bake, until done. (If braids ever seem to be over-browning, before being cooked through, cover them loosely with aluminum foil (shiny side up), uncovering for the last 2 minutes of baking.)

SANDWICH LOAF VARIATION: Make the dough, as directed and, after the second rise, you’re ready to shape your loaves.

1) To shape, rise and bake the loaves: Brush three 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with melted butter and set them aside. Turn the risen dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead it gently and briefly. Use your pastry scraper to divide the dough into three equal portions and cover them while working with one at a time. Roll one piece into an 8 x 10-inch rectangle, with one short end close to you. Starting at the top short end, that’s furthest from you, roll the dough down snugly towards you. After each revolution, use the thumb on your working hand to press down and connect the interior wall of the roll to the bottom of the dough. When you reach the bottom, pinch the last inch of dough onto the roll, so it adheres. Working with one end at a time, press each coiled spiral of dough, in toward the center of the log. Pinch the top and bottom outer rims of dough together, elongating this part slightly, and attach it to the bottom seam, rounding off and sealing each end.

Lay the loaf, seam side down in a prepared loaf pan and use your hands to gently plump and correct the shape. Cover the loaf with a clean kitchen towel and repeat this same procedure with the remaining dough. Let the loaves rise for 45 minutes, in a draft-free spot.

To bake loaves: Preheat the oven to 400°F if using metal pans, and 375°F if using glass. Just before placing the loaves into the hot oven, brush the tops with melted butter. Bake the loaves in the middle of the oven, with 1 1/2-inches in between them, for 30 to 35 minutes, covering loosely with aluminum foil (dull side up) for the last 10 minutes, if becoming overly brown. Remove the loaves from the oven and turn them out of their pans, onto wire racks. Give the bottom of each loaf a good tap on its bottom, which should sound hollow. If not, put them back into the oven (on a shallow baking sheet) for a few more minutes. When done, remove the loaves from the oven and, for the softest crusts, brush the tops with more melted butter. Let the loaves cool completely, on wire racks, before slicing.

A word about oven space: If all three loaves won’t fit in your oven, bake two risen loaves at once, while the third rises in the refrigerator, covered. When the first two loaves enter the oven, remove the third from the refrigerator, letting it rise until the desired volume is achieved. Bake as directed.

Timing is Everything

The dough can be assembled through the first full rise and, after deflating it, placed back in the bowl and in the refrigerator for up to two days (keep well covered). When making loaves, be sure to allow the time required, to bring the dough to room temperature (this can take up to 4 hours).
SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, for the dough, plus 3 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar, for the dough, plus a pinch of sugar, for the yeast
  • 1 tablespoon mild-flavored honey
  • 2 cups mixed light and dark moist raisins (optional)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • Up to 6 cups high-protein bread flour, including flour for dusting
  • Medium-ground cornmeal, as needed, for sprinkling
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and/or kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
  • Egg Glaze: 1 egg beaten with 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Bread flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Active dry yeast (sometimes found in the refrigerated secti0n)
  • Medium-ground cornmeal
  • Honey (mild-flavored)
  • Raisins (optional): light and dark

From the spice section:

  • Assorted seeds: sesame, poppy, caraway (optional)
  • Kosher or sea salt and/or pretzel salt
  • Table salt

From the dairy case:

  • Milk (whole or lowfat)
  • Extra-large eggs

Comments (9)

Rustic Pumpernickel

Dark, with a hauntingly savory-sweet flavor, these loaves are just delicious. I had such fun coming up with this recipe for “the perfect Pumpernickel bread” for the amazing Julia Child. Although some of the ingredients are unusual, as an ensemble, they work beautifully. The prune puree and yogurt are used strategically to keep these loaves extra moist and tender (and their taste is not detectable). For the most springy texture (a dough more a bouncy mouth-feel), substitute water for the yogurt. And don’t stop kneading until you feel real “resistance” at the center.

Speaking of kneading–although I make yeast breads by hand (which is a truly aerobic experience), you can also use a heavy-duty mixer, starting with the paddle attachment and then switching to the dough hook once the mixture starts to become glutinous. I do suggest, however, that you always finish any yeast dough by hand-kneading. That’s the only way to truly know if your dough has developed sufficient elasticity.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information.

Special Equipment:

  • 8-quart mixing bowl, to rise dough
  • Wooden surface for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • Quarry tiles or a pizza stone (use dark steel shallow baking sheet as a substitute)
  • Baker’s peel, to transfer loaves to oven (use a flat cookie sheet as a substitute)
  • Oven sweep, to brush meal off tiles after baking, optional

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, for greasing
  • 2 cups plain yogurt, at room temperature or, as a substitute, use tepid water (warm to the touch)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup prune lekvar (also called prune butter: available in most well-stocked supermarkets with jams and preserves)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 1/2 squares (2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, broken
  • 2 tablespoons ground caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon whole caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fine table salt
  • 2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups coarse rye meal (if unavailable, substitute medium rye flour)
  • Up to 6 cups high gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting and shaping
  • Glaze: 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Topping: sesame seeds and/or caraway seeds (optional)
  • Cornmeal (medium ground), for bakers peel

1) To set up: Brush an 8-quart bowl with melted butter and set aside to rise dough. Take out your pastry scraper, another large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.

2) To assemble dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, cubed butter, shortening, lekvar and molasses. Dissolve instant espresso in 1 cup boiling water and pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add broken chocolate and melt chocolate in espresso over very low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Add to mixing bowl with powdered and whole caraway seeds and salt. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar until creamy and pour into mixing bowl along with the rye meal. Stir to combine well. Using a wooden spoon, briskly stir in enough bread flour, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, until you create a mass that’s not easily stirred, but not dry. Turn the mass out onto a floured wooden board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding only as much flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking to your work surface and hands. In the beginning of the kneading process, this dough will feel quite “pasty” because of the rye flour. As always, use a pastry scraper while kneading to scrape dough off the board cleanly as you continue to knead in a sufficient amount of flour.

3) To rise dough twice: When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in the buttered rising bowl. Cover bowl with buttered plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours. Punch down dough with several swift swats from the back of your hand to deflate dough totally. Turn over dough, cover and let rise again for 1 1/2 hours.

4) To shape oblong loaves: Turn out fully risen dough onto a lightly floured board and use the blade of your pastry scraper to divide dough in half. Work with half the dough at a time, keeping the other half covered. Lay two clean kitchen towels on your counter and sprinkle them with bread flour. Roll dough half into a 7×10-inch rectangle. Starting at the short end farthest from you, roll dough toward you, pinching to seal as you go. Pinch to seal the ends and tuck under to attach to the bottom seam. Rotate and plump dough to finish shaping and place shaped loaf (seam side up) diagonally on a prepared towel. Form a sling by joining the corners of the towel farthest from the loaf. Secure the joined towel points within a closed drawer (in a quiet area) so the loaves hang undisturbed in their slings for 45 minutes.

5) To set up for baking loaves: While bread is rising, position the rack in the second or third lowest shelf in the oven and, if using a sheet of quarry tiles or a pizza stone, place it on the rack. On the rack below this, place a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan, which will preheat along with the tiles. Sprinkle a baker’s peel or a flat cookie sheet with cornmeal. Thirty minutes before the end of the rise, preheat oven to 450o F. If not using tiles or a stone, brush or spray 1 or 2 large (preferably dark steel) shallow baking sheets with vegetable oil and sprinkle interior with cornmeal. After mixing egg white and water, pour into a small medium-mesh sieve into another bowl to remove excess coagulation and any bubbles created while mixing. Place glaze next to your work surface.

6) To slash and glaze loaves: Working with one loaf at a time, carefully release slings and gently turn out loaves from towels (smooth side up) onto the prepared baker’s peel or baking sheet at least 3 inches apart. Use your hands gently to plump loaf into a neat shape. Using a sharp serrated knife or a razor, slash tops of each loaf three times horizontally, going 1/3 inch deep into the dough. Using a pastry brush, paint tops and sides of loaves (excluding slashes) generously with glaze.

7) To bake loaves: Just before inserting the dough into the hot oven, carefully pour ¾ cup warm water into the pan beneath the rack used to bake the loaves, then shut the door while you go get the loaves. If baking with tiles, insert the peel all the way to the back of the oven and with one swift jerk pull out the peel, leaving loaves on the hot tiles (preferably with three inches between them). If not using tiles or a stone, place loaves into the hot oven on their baking sheets as directed. Bake loaves at 450o F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool thoroughly before slicing, 2 to 3 hours

Comments (18)

Homemade Bagels

Homemade bagels are very different from store-bought bagels, which are too doughy for my taste; I always end up scooping out the center. This recipe, which I have truly labored over, produces bagels that are lighter and crisper with infinitely more flavor. I’m really quite prejudiced since I have worked on these bagels for many years, perfecting the shaping process. I’ve learned, through a lot of trial and error, that the secret to creating and keeping the correct bagel shape through rising, boiling and baking is to make the hole disproportionately large, when shaping. Because the bands of elasticity are so strong (because the flour used is so glutinous), the shaped dough has a tendency to rise up, not out. This can cause the hole to disappear if too “appropriate” looking at the onset.

As for texture, the choice is yours. The chewiest bagels are made with just water, but the taste is a bit richer with milk; a combination of the two will also produce a fine bagel. Using liquid barley malt extract instead of (or in addition to) sugar in the dough also gives bagels their unique hint of sweetness (and yeast just loves barley malt!). Look for it in gourmet or health food stores. And for best results, I bake my bagels on a large clay stone, but you can use a dark steel baking sheet instead. Please don’t be afraid to try this recipe; I’ve already made all the mistakes for you!

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management for more information. And, if making yeast bread is new for you, you can go to this page on “Food Matters A to Z,” to learn about how things work. You can also check out the previews of my Pizza video and/or my Country White Bread video to see if you’d like to watch them in their entirety. And, finally, to read my blog, which has lots of detailed “bagel making” photographs, click here.

Special Equipment

  • 5-quart mixing bowl, for rising dough
  • Wooden surface, for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • Set of quarry tiles or large pizza stone or shallow dark steel baking sheet
  • Stainless steel skimmer or large slotted spoon
  • Wooden baker’s peel or a flat cookie sheet, only if using quarry tiles or a stone
  • Cornmeal Sweeper, only if making successive batches of bagels using tiles or a stone

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
  • 2 cups tepid water or any combination of slightly warmed milk and water to equal 2 cups, plus 1/4 cup tepid water, for yeast
  • 3 rounded tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon liquid (not dry) barley malt extract, plus 1/4 cup sugar for when boiling the bagels
  • 1 tablespoon fine table-salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, optional
  • Up to 6 cups high-gluten flour, including flour for dusting (I prefer to use “super-gluten” flour, which I purchase at my neighborhood pizza place. If unavailable, use a supermarket brand of bread flour)
  • For the boiling water bath: Boiling water, as needed, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon baking soda

Remaining Ingredients:

  • Cornmeal or a combination of cornmeal (preferably medium-ground), poppy and sesame seeds, for baker’s peel
  • Vegetable oil or spray, for baking sheet (only if not using a baking stone)
  • Glaze: 2 egg whites, at room temperature, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 6 ice cubes and a small splash of water, for baking
  • Optional Toppings
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Minced onions sautéed in a little vegetable oil
  • Dried garlic chips or dehydrated onions reconstituted in some hot water until softened

Recipe instructions:

1) To set up: Brush the interior of a 5-quart mixing bowl with melted butter and set aside for rising the dough.

2) To assemble liquid mixture: If using milk, heat in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat until just warm throughout. Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and add shortening and 1/2 cup lukewarm water. (If the milk became too hot, let it cool until just warm.) If not using milk, pour the 2 cups lukewarm water into a mixing bowl and add the shortening (no need to melt). Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water with a pinch of the sugar. When yeast is creamy and starts to bubble, add to mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of the sugar or the barley malt extract, salt and black pepper, if using.

3) To complete and knead the dough: Briskly stir in enough flour, a cup or so at a time, to make dough that is not easily stirred in the bowl. Turn out the dough onto a floured wooden board and knead in a brisk push, fold and turning motion, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add only as much additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to your hands and work surface. As always, use a pastry scraper while kneading to scrape dough off the board cleanly as you continue to knead in a sufficient amount of flour.

4) To rise the dough: Place the dough in the buttered bowl. Brush top of the dough with more melted butter, and then cover with buttered plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 1 hour (or up to 2 1/2 hours for an extremely light and flavorful bagel). Uncover bowl and punch down dough with several swift swats with the back of your hand. Recover bowl and refrigerate dough for 4 hours or, preferably, overnight (and up to two days!!).

5) To set up for shaping bagels: Position the rack to the lower third of the oven. If using a large pizza stone, place it on the oven rack and sprinkle a baker’s peel generously with cornmeal and, if desired, a combination of seeds (poppy, sesame and caraway). Otherwise, brush or spray a large dark steel shallow baking sheet with vegetable oil and sprinkle the interior as described above. Place an (empty) heat proof pan on the rack underneath the tiles or stone. Preheat oven to 500o F at least 30 minutes before you plan to shape, boil and bake bagels. (If working with a double oven, preheat the second oven as well). Pour the prepared egg-white glaze through a small medium-mesh sieve into another bowl to remove excess coagulation. Set the glaze next to your work surface. While the oven preheats, bring one or two large pots of water to a rapid boil. Lay a clean kitchen towel on each of 2 shallow trays or baking sheets (for 10 bagels) and sprinkle the towels lightly with flour.

6) To shape bagels: Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Punch the chilled dough down, with several swift blows, until totally deflated. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Using the blade of a pastry scraper, divide the dough in half. I recommend baking only 5 bagels at a time (per oven) so each has enough space around it to bake properly. If not working with a double oven, place half of dough back in bowl, cover and refrigerate. Divide each half of dough into 5 equal pieces (for 10 in all). You’ll work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces covered with a towel. Shape one piece of dough into a very tight, round ball by drawing dough up and pinching it at the top. Keep pinching and pulling upward, always keeping ball on a lightly floured board to prevent sticking. The ball should be perfectly round with the exception of a little knot of pinched dough on top. Turn ball (knot side down) and flatten gently. Push your index finger through the center of dough (right where the knot was). Gently stretch the hole, while being careful not to tear the rim, until hole measures about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter (the hole will shrink after rising and baking). As each bagel is shaped, place it on the prepared towel-lined trays spaced 2 inches apart. Cover bagels with another clean towel.

7) To boil the bagels: Add 1/4 cup sugar and the baking soda to the pot of boiling water. Bring 1 tray of risen bagels over to the stove and carefully lower 2 to 4 bagels into the water (one at a time). Bagels should be able to sit freely in the water without touching and will expand in the water. Once the bagels rise to the top of the pot, continue to boil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side, turning with a large round slotted skimmer or a large slotted spoon. After bagels have cooked on the second side, remove them with spatula (draining water) and drain on a kitchen towel (smoothest side up). Repeat with the remaining bagels

8) To glaze and top the bagels:  Place bagels (again, smoothest side up) on the prepared baker’s peel or baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, paint boiled bagels with egg-white glaze. Don’t worry if the glazed bagels seem wrinkled; this will smooth in the oven. When all of the bagels have been boiled and positioned on the peel or baking sheet, brush tops and sides of bagels once more with glaze. Sprinkle the desired toppings on each bagel or just glaze and leave plain. (Try not to let the glaze fall into puddles around bagels or into hole as this makes bagel dough stick to the peel. (Having the egg whites at room temperature and straining, helps remove their clumsy gelatinous quality.)

9) To bake the bagels: Just before baking, place the ice cubes and a few tablespoons water into a cup and pour this into the pan that sits below the baker’s stone. If using tiles, place baker’s peel all the way to the back of the hot oven and with a swift jerk; remove the peel, leaving the bagels on the hot tiles (or place baking sheet on hot oven rack). Reduce oven temperature to 450o F and bake for *25 minutes (see note); turn oven off and allow bagels to sit there for 5 minutes. Open oven and allow bagels to sit in oven for 5 minutes more. Remove bagels to wire racks when uniformly golden and crisp. Cool thoroughly before storing.

Note: If working with a convection oven, bake the bagels at 450 for 20 minutes. Keep the rest of the instructions the same.)

10) To prepare the oven for the remaining batch of bagels (if not using a double oven): Before reheating the oven to 500o F, sweep away any excess cornmeal and seeds from the tiles and onto a baking sheet to discard, using a cornmeal sweeper. (This is to prevent burning and smoking.) Preheat the oven, boil, and glaze, top and bake remaining bagels as described above.)

11) To store: Store cooled bagels to be served on the day of baking in a paper bag. Store the remaining bagels in a jumbo-sized, heavy-duty plastic bag, at room temperature. Bagels also freeze well in well-sealed freezer bags. To thaw, remove from the freezer the night before and allow bagels to thaw, overnight, in the sealed bag.

Bagel Chips

Don’t throw away your day old-bagels! Instead, slice, butter and bake them for a delicious cracker! Using a sharp serrated knife, cut bagels into 1/4-inch slices; lightly spread them with softened butter (or extra-virgin olive oil) mixed with herbs of your choice, and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place on a wire rack set inside a shallow baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375o F oven until crisp throughout and golden brown, 10 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin. (Bagel chips made with olive oil and dried herbs will be less perishable than those made with butter and fresh herbs.)


SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

For a batch of bagels:

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
  • 2 cups tepid water or any combination of slightly warmed milk and water to equal 2 cups, plus 1/4 cup tepid water, for yeast
  • 3 rounded tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon liquid (not dry) barley malt extract, plus 1/4 cup sugar for when boiling the bagels
  • 1 tablespoon fine table-salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, optional
  • Up to 6 cups high-gluten flour, including flour for dusting (I prefer to use “super-gluten” flour, which I purchase at my neighborhood pizza place. If unavailable, use a supermarket brand of bread flour)
  • Cornmeal or a combination of cornmeal (preferably medium-ground), poppy and sesame seeds, for baker’s peel
  • Vegetable oil or spray, for baking sheet (if not using a baking stone)
  • Glaze: 2 egg whites, at room temperature, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 6 ice cubes and a small splash of water, for baking
  • Optional Toppings
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Minced onions sautéed in a little vegetable oil
  • Dried garlic chips or dehydrated onions reconstituted in some hot water until softened

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Solid vegetable shortening
  • Sugar
  • Fine table salt and black peppercorns
  • High-gluten bread flour (preferably a “super gluten” flour from the pizza shop and, if not, you can go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/ for a large assortment of types of flour)
  • Cornmeal (medium-ground)
  • An assortment of seeds (sesame, poppy, caraway)
  • Dehydrated minced onions (plain or toasted)
  • Dehydrated minced garlic
  • Vegetable oil (only if not using a baking stone and if using sautéed fresh onions as a topping for the bagels)

From the produce aisle:

  • Yellow onions (if using a fresh onion topping for the bagels)

From the dairy case:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Milk (only if planning to use milk in your bagel dough)

From the refrigerated section:

  • Active-dry yeast
  • Eggs or just whites (for egg-white glaze)

Specialty ingredients:

  • Liquid barley malt extract (available in all health food stores and in some well-stocked supermarkets.)
  • Pretzel salt (optional as a topping): You can find this at this website: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/

Comments (17)

A Raisin Challah Centerpiece… A True Sight To Behold

Following, are the directions to build an amazing centerpiece that’s made of highly glazed raisin challah bread and it’s just perfect for the center of your holiday table. I make this every Rosh Hashanah but it’s just as awesome for the universal New Year’s Day dinner or brunch. Because the centerpiece is so beautiful, I like to keep it uncut. And, because it’s so delicious, I always make a second dough to slice and serve (also with raisins) and shape that into two coiled loaves, which is the traditional shape for Rosh Hashanah. This is because, although the more usual braided (knobby) shape is mean to reflect the interwoved (and sometimes bumpy) road of life, for New Year’s, it’s a smooth knob-less shape that’s created in hopes for a happy (bump-free) year ahead.

In this recipe (down below) I’ve provided instructions for plain and savory coils of dough, along with a photo of what a baked loaf looks like after being baked with an assortment of savory toppings (I call it my “Everything” Challah) Here’s also a link for making those beautiful six-strand braided loaves, which (with or without raisins) are another magnificent addition to the table. This challah dough is not parve. If Kosher and using for a meal that contains meat, make the changes suggested in the recipe.

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management or Knowledge is Power for more information.

Special Equipment:

  • 8-quart mixing bowl, for rising the dough
  • Wooden surface for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • A good pair of hands!
  • 12 inch spring-form pan (for the centerpiece)
  • Small heatproof (stainless) bowl (or use an empty metal can) for the center of the ring of dough
  • Aluminum foil (preferably nonstick) for the outside of the bowl or can
  • 2 large shallow baking sheets (for coil-shaped loaves)
  • Parchment paper
  • Pastry brush

For the raisin dough:

  • About 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, including butter for brushing
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus a pinch of sugar, for the yeast
  • 1 tablespoon mild-flavored honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups supple raisins (mix light and dark)
  • Up to 6 cups high-protein bread flour, including flour for dusting
  • Glaze: 1 egg beaten with 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water
  • Medium-ground cornmeal, as needed, for sprinkling
  • Vegetable spray, as needed (for the raisin bread centerpiece)
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)

Ingredients note: If wanting to prepare a Kosher (parve) challah, one that can be eaten with both meat and dairy, substitute water (or try coconut milk) for the milk and use an equal amount of non-dairy (stick) margarine for the butter or use corn oil, reducing it to 1/3 cup).

To get ready to assemble the dough: Use some of the melted butter to grease the interior of an 8-quart mixing bowl. Tear off two long sheets of plastic wrap and slightly overlap them, on your counter. Brush the plastic with melted butter (this will be used to cover your bowl of dough, once assembled). Take out your pastry scraper. Submerge 4 whole eggs in a bowl of hot tap water and let them steep, for 10 minutes.

To assemble the dough and rise it twice: Heat the milk, in a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium low heat. Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and add 8 tablespoons of melted butter (stir it first to make sure to get an adequate amount of milk solids). Stir in 1/3 cup sugar along with the honey and raisins. Let the milk cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar and allow it to become visibly active, about 3 minutes. Add the dissolved yeast to the warm milk mixture, along with the tepid eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon, to break up the eggs, then stir in enough flour, cup by cup, to create a somewhat stiff, shaggy mass, that’s no longer easily stirred.

Using a sturdy rubber spatula, scrape the mass on to a floured surface and knead it, using a brisk push, pull and folding motion, for about 5 minutes, or until you’ve created a dough that’s smooth and elastic, adding only as much additional flour as needed, to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and work surface. At the first signs of stickiness, use your pastry scraper to cleanly remove the dough off your kneading surface. Then lightly flour both, your hands and the work surface and continue to work the dough until you are satisfied with the texture. Place the dough into the greased bowl and brush the top with more melted butter. Cover the bowl with the greased plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot, for 2 1/2 hours. Uncover the dough and punch it down, with several swift swats with the back of your hand. Turn the dough over in the bowl and knead, gently, to redistribute the yeast. Recover the bowl and let the dough rise again, for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until very light and billowy.

To shape, bake and present a challah centerpiece: First make your glaze. Use a fork to beat the egg with the yolk and water. Strain this through a small wire sieve, making it easier to apply with a pastry brush. Set the glaze aside. Brush the interior of a 12-inch nonstick spring-form pan with melted butter and sprinkle the interior with cornmeal. Tilt the pan to coat the greased surface, then tap out any excess meal. Cover the exterior of a 2-cup capacity stainless steel bowl with nonstick aluminum foil (dull or nonstick side out), tucking the edges into the bowl, so the foil fits flush with the outer surface. Spray the foil with vegetable spray and place the bowl in the center of the prepared pan, domed bottom up. Place the pan to one side of your work surface. (Alternatively, take the wrapper off of an empty 28 ounce can and wrap the outside with nonstick foil. Spray the foil and place in the center of the prepared pan, as previously directed.)

Turn the fully risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a pastry scraper, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Keep all of the pieces covered, while working with one piece at a time. One by one, shape only nine of the pieces into round buns by gathering up the sides of the dough, and pinching at the top. Do this over and over, creating a smooth taut round of dough with a pinched end, on top. Place each round, as it’s shaped, smooth side up (pinched side down) in the prepared pan, surrounding the small bowl. Leave about 1/4 inch of space in between each bun. Divide the last piece of dough into three equal pieces and roll each one into a long skinny strand. Braid the dough, like you were braiding your hair, starting at one end and finishing at the other. Pinch the loose ends together, then lift the braid and carefully elongate it (being careful not to tear it). Drape the braid around the inside of the buns, surrounding the exposed bowl, pinching the ends together, securely. The top of the foil-covered bowl should remaining exposed, in the center of the circular braid. Cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 45 minutes, before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375oF. Ten minutes before the end of the rise, uncover the pan and brush the exposed dough with the egg glaze. Let the pan sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then reapply the glaze and sprinkle the top of the dough with sesame seeds, if desired. Bake the challah centerpiece, until cooked through and deep golden, 40 to 45 minutes, covering the pan loosely, with aluminum foil (shiny side up) for the last 10 minutes, if becoming overly brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Carefully run a table knife around the edges of the pan making sure the bread is free from the sides. Open the spring-form latch and, while holding the pan in your working hand, lift the bread up, releasing the sides. Place the bread, still on the bottom disc, on the rack to cool further. When cool, run a knife under the bread, where it meets the pan’s disc andslide it off. Gently pry out the bowl, (or can) which should come out easily. If at all challenging, use a knife to cut around the bottom edge, then pull the bowl out. Place the bread on a large circular platter and insert a tiny bowl in the center, gently pushing it down, so it’s secured.

To help ring in a “sweet” New Year, fill the little bowl (the size will vary depending on the space created in the center) with honey and surround the centerpiece with either Seckel pears or lady apples. Place the platter in the center of your dressed table and, at dinner, pass an additional basked filled with sliced raisin challah, (instructions will follow) and accompany the bread with some softened salted, homemade butter and extra honey, to drizzle.

Plain Challah Variation:

Keep everything the same, omitting the raisins. If making two braids or rounds, after they rise, glaze as directed and sprinkle the top with one or both with a combination of seeds (like poppy, sesame or caraway). And, or top with some reconstituted dehydrated toasted onions and garlic. Sprinkle the top lightly with salt and bake, as you would the raisin dough. To make a centerpiece, using a plain dough, use a 10-inch spring-form pan.

Savory Challah Variation:

When assembling the dough, reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons, omit the honey, add 1/2 cup thinly sliced chives, 1/2 cup room temperature freshly grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese (for braids or loaves) or 1 cup cheese, when making Brie en croute. After assembling the dough, reduce the first rise to 2 hours and the second rise to 1 hour and 15 minutes. If making a Brie en croute, after the first 2 hour rise, punch the dough down, cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours and as long as twenty-four hours, before shaping. This dough must be chilled, if being using to encase a wheel of cheese. If using this savory version to be baked in loaf pans, it should be at room temperature. And, if making savory loaves or braids, follow the previous topping instructions, for a plain dough.

The following shaping instructions can be applied to the raisin, plain and cheese versions of the dough.

To set up for shaping coiled loaves: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 2 large shallow baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle the paper with cornmeal. Gather your choice of seeds, if using, and place them next to the bowl of glaze. Turn the fully risen dough out onto your lightly floured work surface and divide the dough in half, using your pastry scraper. Cover one half, while working with the other. (If not working with a double oven, refrigerate 1/2 of the dough, in it’s original bowl, covered.) Roll one half of dough into a strand about 18 inches long. (Use extra flour, only as necessary, to keep dough from sticking to your hands and work surface.) Position the dough horizontally in front of you and create a coil (like a snake that’s curled around itself) and pinch the end of the dough onto itself, securing it well. Place the coil on one of the baking sheets and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes. (If working with a double oven, repeat this same procedure with the remaining half of dough. If not, wait until the first loaf enters the oven, to remove the second half from the refrigerator, to shape half.)

After a 20 minute rise, uncover the braid and brush the dough, all over, with the egg glaze. Let the loaf sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Just before baking, give the dough another coat of glaze and, if desired, sprinkle the top, decoratively, with one or more type of the seeds. Sprinkle the top lightly with salt, if desired, and bake the braid(s) at 375oF oven until golden, and the loaves feel light when lifted, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, 35 to 45 minutes. As the dough bakes, it will expand, exposing new, unglazed dough. To prevent uneven browning, check the loaves 20 minutes after they enter the oven and, working quickly, brush any whiter parts of dough with some reserved glaze. Quickly sprinkle those sections with some seeds, if using and continue to bake, until done. (Cover the top of the braids, loosely, with aluminum foil (shiny side up) if loaves begin to become overly brown before being cooked through, uncovering for the last 2 minutes of baking. (Please expect the shape of each baked loaf to be somewhat irregular; it’s part of their charm!)

And, to see what a loaf of coiled dough looks like before and after baking….

Here's a shaped coiled loaf that's risen and just about to get glazed and topped...

Here's the loaf baked with an assortment of savory seeds and with reconstituted dehydrated toasted onions and garlic!

To cool and serve: Let the loaves cool on wire racks before slicing and serving.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, for the dough, plus 3 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar, for the dough, plus a pinch of sugar, for the yeast
  • 1 tablespoon mild-flavored honey
  • 2 cups mixed light and dark moist raisins
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fine table salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • Up to 6 cups high-protein bread flour, including flour for dusting
  • Medium-ground cornmeal, as needed, for sprinkling
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and/or kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
  • Egg Glaze: 1 egg beaten with 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Bread flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Active dry yeast
  • Medium-ground cornmeal
  • Honey (mild-flavored)
  • Raisins: light and dark (only for raisin challah)

From the spice section:

  • Assorted seeds: sesame, poppy, caraway (optional)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Table salt

From the dairy case:

  • Milk (whole or lowfat)
  • Extra-large egg

From the produce section:

  • Chives (only for the savory variation)

From the cheese section:

  • Best quality Parmesan cheese (only for the savory variation

Comments (1)