FLOWER POTS CHALLAH


We love to eat this sweet bread at home and, even that it is mostly celebrated in our family during Easter, I can have it any day.  To be honest, it is daunting the time and work that goes into it, but besides that it is so pretty, it is sensationally delicious and the textures of the bread's “strings” are unforgettable, that any effort is worth waiting for.
Sweet breads are very common part of the baking traditions of most European countries in their Jewish and Christian communities.  We call it Kozunak in Bulgaria, my family in Greece calls it Tsoureki, in Hungary it is known as Kalács, Chałka – in Poland and if you get completely lost in so many names, just ask for Brioche when in France.  I was having a sweet chit-chat with my dear friend Bella when she reminded me that she actually is baking it every week for Shabbat dinner.  Boy, that’s a lot of work if you have to do it the traditional way!
I've found the best recipe that hasn't fail me from first go and can’t stop bragging about it.  I considered myself lucky when I stumbled on the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes.  I considered myself blessed when I started baking their breads.  When in a hurry, I bake the dough in loaves.  But most often, with my two little girls growing and learning to cook and bake, we make our Flower Pots Challah and they love it!  Here is my variation of their basic Brioche recipe.


Flower Pots Challah
(Kozunak | Tsoureki | Kalács | Całka | Brioche)
INGREDIENTS:
Makes about 2 loaves
170 gr lukewarm water
1 packet of dry yeast
8 grams salt
4 large eggs (lightly beaten)
110 gr sugar
172.5 gr unsalted butter (melted)
695 gr unbleached all-purpose flour
METHOD:
Mix the yeast, salt, eggs sugar and melted butter with the water in a big bowl.  Mix in the flour until all of the ingredients are integrated.
Cover with kitchen towel and leave it at room temperature for about two hours.  After two hours fold the dough and let it rest again.  Then put it in the refrigerator overnight.  I found that is much, much easier to handle the dough and make intricate and complicated plaids if I have my dough chilled.  This way I can allow the children to be part of the braiding without having a nervous breakdown…  If you are new in the art of braiding, try to stay with two or three strands until you gain more experience and confidence working with sweet and sticky dough.
As Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes suggest, the dough can be used as soon as it is chilled.  This dough is way too sticky to use after the initial rise, but once it is chilled, it is very easy to handle.  The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  After that you can freeze the dough.
When you decide you are going to bake the brioche, take it out from the refrigerator and shape it to your desire.  Cover it with clean kitchen towel.  Let the shaped dough rest on room temperature for about 3 hours.
To bake a large, round challah: Place the pan into a preheated 200°C oven.  After 10 minutes, reduce the oven heat to 175°C and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes more.  Check the bread in 15 minutes.  Cover with aluminium foil if it shows to be browning too quickly.  I simply block the top by placing the wide tray on the rack above.  This sweet bread should be deep brown in colour when done; it also should sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.  Remove the bread from the oven, and after 10 minutes remove it from the baking pan on a rack to cool completely.
To bake the flower pots challah – Make sure the terracotta pots are food-safe.  Place the pots into a preheated 190°C oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (tent after 10 minutes if they're browning too quickly).  Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto a rack.
To bake the loaves: Allow the loaves to rise till they've nearly reached the rim of the pan, about 3 hours. Bake in a preheated 175°C oven for 40 to 45 minutes, tenting with foil after 15 to 20 minutes.  You can bake the two loaves in two loaf tins at the same time in the oven.

















Until my next post,
My very best wishes,
Sophia



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