A good measure of extra virgin olive oil imparts a beautiful pale greenish color to the crumb and gives this bread a moist texture and a flaky, brittle crust. This savory challah is quickly mixed and easily shaped and, thanks to the low-water/high-oil content, very easy to handle. Because this dough does not hold its shape as well as some other doughs, form it into a simple ring or round, or a single-strand braid*; fancier forms would be wasted here.
This bread is good served with any menu, but it goes particularly well with Mediterranean-style food. It also makes excellent croutons and toasts.
1 teaspoon (3 grams/ 0.1 oz) instant yeast (a.k.a. “Bread Machine” “Perfect Rise,” "QuickRise™,” or “RapidRise™”) 3 3/4 cups (500 grams/17.6 oz) unbleached bread flour, divided 1 1/4 cups (280 grams/9.9 oz) warm water 1/2 cup (110 grams/3.8 oz) good quality extra virgin olive oil 1 3/4 teaspoons (11 grams/ 0.4 oz.) table salt Sesame seeds for sprinkling
MIXING THE YEAST SLURRY: In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 1 1/4 cups (150 g, 5.6 oz) flour, then whisk in the water until the yeast slurry is smooth.
Let the yeast slurry ferment, uncovered, for 10-20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.
MIXING THE DOUGH: Whisk into the puffed yeast slurry the oil and the salt. When the mixture is smooth and the salt has dissolved, stir in the remaining 2 1/2 cups (350 g, 12 oz) flour with your hands or a wooden spoon. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead it just until it is well mixed. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now, to clean it and warm it if you would like to use it for fermenting the dough.)
If the dough is too firm, add a tablespoon or two of water to the dough, or, if the dough seems to wet, add a few tablespoons of flour to it.
FERMENTING THE DOUGH: When the dough is fully kneaded, place it in the cleaned, warmed bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment until it has tripled in bulk, about 2-3 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
SHAPING AND REFRIGERATING THE DOUGH: Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or with foil, oiling the foil.
Divide the dough into one large loaf plus three rolls, or in half for two loaves, braid or shape them as desired, position them on the prepared sheets, and cover them well with plastic wrap. I highly recommend refrigerating the shaped loaves at this point for at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours.
PROOFING THE DOUGH: When ready to bake, remove the loaves from the refrigerator, and let them proof until tripled in size, about 2 1/2 hours.
Thirty minutes before baking, arrange an oven rack in the upper third position, remove all racks above it, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C, gas mark 7). If desired, preheat a baking sheet in the oven to double with the baking sheets on which the loaves are resting.
BAKING THE DOUGH: When the loaves have tripled and do not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remain indented, brush the loaves all over with water, then sprinkle them heavily with sesame seeds. Bake them on the preheated pans,
if you have followed this step. After 30 minutes, switch the breads from front to back and let them continue to bake for another 10−20 minutes. The rolls should be ready after 30 minutes, the smaller breads should bake for about 40 minutes, and the larger breads should bake for about 50 minutes. When the loaves are very darkly browned, remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack.
Yield: Yields 2 one-pound challahs Or 1 one-and-one-half-pound challah and 3 two-ounce rolls
*Watch this YouTube video on how to shape a Single-Strand Braid
When Celine Bénitah cooks this dish, she blanches the olives for a minute to get rid of the bitterness, a step that I never bother with. If you keep the pits in, just warn your guests in order to avoid any broken teeth! Céline also uses the marvelous Moroccan spice mixture ras el hanout, which includes, among thirty other spices, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cloves, and paprika. You can find it at Middle Eastern markets or through the Internet, or you can use equal amounts of the above spices or others that you like.
To make my life easier, I assemble the spice rub the day before and marinate the chicken overnight. The next day, before my guests arrive, I fry the chicken and simmer it.
4 large cloves garlic, mashed Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 1 to 2 tablespoons ras el hanout 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped 4 tablespoons olive oil One 3 1/2 to- 4- pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1 cup black Moroccan dry-cured olives, pitted Diced rind of 2 preserved lemons (recipe: Citrons Confits)
Mix the mashed garlic with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, the turmeric, the ras el hanout, half the cilantro, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Rub the surface of the chicken pieces with this spice mixture, put them in a dish, and marinate in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.
The next day, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan. Sauté the spice- rubbed chicken until golden brown on each side.
Stir the cornstarch into 1 cup water, and pour over the chicken. Bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Add the olives, and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the preserved lemon, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with rice or couscous.
This is grandma's challah recipe. The original was for 8 "hands" flour, 1/2 "hand" sugar. Were her hands the same size as mine? Worked it out. Delish!
2 packages active dry yeast 1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees; feels slightly warm to touch) 1/2 cup sugar 8 cups all-purpose flour, approximately 1 tablespoon salt 5 large eggs 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 11/2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees) Poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional
In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly.
While the yeast is resting, place 7-1/2 cups flour with the remaining sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook. Add 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil and the 1-1/2 cups water. Mix, using the dough hook until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and blend in thoroughly. Knead (at medium-high speed) until the dough is smooth and elastic (34 minutes). Add more flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface.
Cut the dough into 3 or 6 pieces, depending on whether you are going to make one large or two smaller loaves. Make long strands out of each piece. Braid the strands and seal the ends together by pressing on the dough. Place the bread(s) on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg. Brush the surface with some of the egg. Sprinkle with seeds if desired. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes for one large bread, 22-25 minutes for two smaller breads. They should be firm and golden brown.
Yield: Makes one large or two smaller challahs. You can make the dough in a food processor cut the recipe in half.