Baking Challah in a bread machine?

cloud_swiftAugust 12, 2014

Has anyone tried to do this? How did it turn out?

Our oven died pretty spectacularly yesterday. Perhaps the repair man will be able to fix it Thursday and perhaps not. My DH makes challah every Friday morning for Shabbat.

He normally uses the bread machine for mixing the dough and the pre-shaping rise. If our oven isn't fixed by Friday, I'm wondering if we could use the bread machines for baking. (We actually have two so he could even make two loaves at the same time.)

Otherwise we are down to trying to make it on the grill or - horror of horrors! - getting store bought challah.

If we do, should we try to time taking it out before the final rise to braid it and then put it back in or should we just go with baking it as a plain loaf. When we went to the six strand braid instead of the 3 strand, I think it improved the flavor so I'm leaning toward that.

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cloudswift - First off, condolences on your oven; I read about it over in appl. Here's hoping that the cost of repair is reasonable enough to make it a no-brainer.

I'm very interested in the responses you get. Both of the two times I used my bread machine it was for challah. Both times I baked it in a loaf pan in the oven as I was making it for French toast, not Shabbat ;-) and figured the shape was better than a braid for that plus I'm lazy. I was not happy at all with the results and put the Zoji in early retirement. BUT now if you're saying 3 vs 6 strand braid makes a taste difference in your opinion, I'm wondering if my "one-strand" was part of the problem.

Of course it could have been the recipe itself; I don't offhand recall if I used one from the Zoji's manual or if it was from "Bread Machines for Dummies." Definitely one of the two.

I'm sure you've got a recipe you're happy with, and I'd love to see it in order to compare.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 7:48PM
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THIS one ...
It's possible

This post was edited by lazygardens on Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 19:55

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 7:53PM
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Hi Lazy, the first one is similar to what we use. The second one is non-traditional - because the Shabbat evening meal is usually meat, real challah is usually Parve - i.e. it doesn't have any milk products in it.

FOAS, here is the recipe we make. Normally we use the Zoji to mix up the whole 2 loaf recipe. That would be too much for it to bake but it handles the mixing of it just fine. One does have to get it out fairly promptly at the end of the rising time or it will hit the top of the machine which then has to be cleaned off.

The recipe came from Secrets of a Jewish Baker by George Greenstein - we altered mixing order to the usual bread machine order and my DH converted the dry ingredient quantities to weight - I'll include both the weight and volume measures. The weight measurements are what my DH uses and not exactly the volume ones.

1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks (it comes out okay - slightly less rich subbing one egg for these)

19.5 oz (4 - 4 1/2 cups) bread flour
2 oz (1/4 cup) sugar
0.8 oz (2 tbsp) yeast
0.4 oz (2 tsp) salt

1 egg plus 1/2 shell of water.

Set the bread machine to the regular dough cycle.
Put in all the liquid ingredients. Then put the dry ingredients. Start the machine.

Take the dough out at the end of the dough cycle.
Roll into 12 lengths of about 1 cm thick and 20-25 cm long. each.
My DH does that by rolling to 60 cm, dividing that in half. Roll each half to 60 cm and divide in half again. Roll each to 60 cm again and cut in thirds. If the dough gets resistant at some point in this process let it rest a bit and work on another length.

Braid the challah - a tutorial for the method we use is linked below.

Blend the egg and water for the glaze. Brush onto challahs.
Proof for 40 minutes in a warm place.
Brush with glaze again and, if you like, sprinkle on sesame or poppy seeds.

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. You need a nice well-toasted crust or these will shrink too much when you take them out. (My DH likes the challah to be very fluffy so he takes them to the edge of over proofed. You could probably do a bit shorter rise and then not have to brown the crust as much for structure.)

He makes a whole wheat version by replacing the 20 oz of bread flour with:
9 oz white whole wheat flour
10.5 oz bread flour
and adding 2.5 tbsp more water

Here is a link that might be useful: Six strand challah braid tutorial

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 9:58PM
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We made a test batch where we baked one loaf in the toaster oven and one in the bread machine.

For the bread machine, I figured out how to program the "home made" settings and set up one to use the 3rd rise for 40 minutes and bake for 30 minutes.
We made the dough as usual and braided two loaves. I took the paddles out of the bread machine and put one loaf in there and started the machine. It does a few swirls of the posts when starting up so next time I'll probably wait until it has finished that but it didn't affect the loaf much since the paddles were off.

The one in the toaster oven came out fine. The one in the bread machine didn't get done enough so it shrank too much. I forgot to allow for the heating time - 30 minutes includes the time it is warming up so it wasn't long enough. Next time I'll set it for longer. I can always check it and stop the cycle when it is dark enough.

Other than the cooking time not being long enough, the bread machine was doing fine on baking it.

We have two bread machines and my DH normally does a batch of whole wheat and a batch of regular at the same time.. It will be a tight squeeze but two will fit in the toaster oven and two loaves can be done one in each bread machine.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 10:16PM
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Great link, that tutorial - thanks! Having watched the video twice I think I can now braid challah in my sleep, and I've never even done it yet!

And thanks a lot for posting the recipe, adjusted for the bread machine. It's officially on my to-do list, sooner rather than later.

(.8 and .4 ounces did raise an eyebrow though - I don't think I've ever seen a digital kitchen scale that does ounces in decimels - always 1/8ths. I'm not concerned!)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:06AM
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I would just skip the braiding and do the whole thing in the machine. Even when he was braiding it, my friend used to make the dough and do the first rise in the machine. I would do the same thing if I had a bread machine!

You probably already know this, but for anyone who doesn't, challah doesn't have to be braided anyway to be Official Challah. I think that's really just a European custom anyway -- Jews from other places make all kinds of different unbraided breads as challah. What makes it challah isn't the shape or even the flavor -- it is taking away a pinch of the dough from the formed loaves before cooking (from the bottom is fine). You're supposed to burn it in the oven but I just throw it out.

So there you are, in case the braiding was what was troubling you.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:37PM
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FOAS, I've put the link to the kitchen scale we have below. It shows ounces in tenths when in the ounce mode. (Actually it has two digits past the decimal point but it is accurate to 0.1 ounce so I don't pay attention to the other digit.)

If your scale does eighths, 3/4 should be fine for the yeast and you could do 3/8 for the salt.

Gelchom, I know it doesn't have to be braided to be official. However, I find I like it more braided - it changes the crumb.

Also, it is our tradition to pull chunks off the challah rather than having a knife to slice it after the blessing and that doesn't seem practical with an unbraided loaf.

We do the mixing and the pre-braiding rises in the machine using the regular dough cycle (mix, 1st rise, punch down, 2nd rise). One machine will handle the whole recipe for two loaves for mixing and rising. We have to get the dough out pretty promptly after the cycle ends or it will hit the roof of the machine and have to be cleaned off. The machine wouldn't handle that quantity of dough for baking and the tradition is to have two loaves so it would have to come out of the machine to split into two loaves anyway.

We have two bread machines. The first one had started to make a funny noise sometimes while mixing so we thought it might have a bearing going out so we bought a second one for back up. Fortunately, the first machine stopped making the noise and continues to work fine.

Since my DH makes challah for us and for one of my sons every week, he now gets out the second machine on Friday morning and mixes both batches at the same time.

If our oven is still out, one pair of loaves will go into the toaster oven to bake and the other into the two bread machines to bake.

I'm really impatient for the repair tech to get here so we can find out where we are.

Here is a link that might be useful: Escali digital kitchen scale

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 1:41PM
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Maybe bake at a friend's house?

I have 12 small unbaked, braided challot in the freezer for Shabbat dinner the weekend of Thing Two's wedding (fortunately our friends are doing everything else). I may ask others to take a few and bake them that Friday morning.

Do you think baking some of them Thursday night will give enough of an inferior quality to make a difference?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 1:46PM
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I have baked bread in my bbq. Bread in middle, front and or back burners on low. Turn up if needed to get to correct temp.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 1:51PM
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Hi Lori, our gas BBQ is a smaller unit because it shares the enclosure with a charcoal grill. So it only has a single burner control. The best I can do for indirect heat is to put in a large baking sheet to deflect the heat and then put what I want to bake on top of that - possibly with something in between to create some air space.

I did use it for baking when our kitchen was being remodeled but playing human thermostat is not my favorite thing. I baked a pizza on a stone in it last night.

Gellchom, My DH was willing to start the two batches 45 minutes apart to use the toaster oven for both instead of synchronizing them. But I actually liked the texture of the ones baked in the bread machine and I think with just a little more time they would have been perfect.

Fortunately, we won't have to make the experiment.

The repairman has come and gone. He didn't have the parts to fix it today, but with the bad element removed, the bottom oven works fine so we will be able to bake in that.

The convection heating element went bad - elements usually fail open but, lucky us, ours failed shorted, vaporized a big section of it almost totally, providing spectacular heat and light for a few seconds. It actually made a hole in the convection fan cover.

Verdict is still out on what the fix will cost. The heat from the short appears to have damaged a board that is behind the oven cavity (not the very expensive main control board which lives on top of the oven, but something still pretty expensive). When he comes back, he will pull the oven to confirm but he is pretty sure what got toasted.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Wow. I love my fancy new oven, but there's something to be said for the old ones that just got hot. ;)

Good news about your second oven, and the prospect of a quick repair for the first!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 4:04PM
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Which oven do you have plllog?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 4:23PM
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My ovens are Gaggenau, the regular and the combi-steam, and I do love them. But my mother's old Chambers wall oven, which did have something it called a broiler, but was really just top heat, basically just did on and off. It was "slow", so you had to know its quirks, like many old ovens, but it really was fabulous, and ran for fifty years before it became irreparable.

I do NOT want a star to be born in my convection fan! Though I'm much relieved that you have a working oven and the second can be fixed.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 5:06PM
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I'm still thinking of replacing my ovens with side opening or french door oven because I'm so short and I find reaching the oven door for the upper oven a challenge - especially when something heavy is in there. My arms are short as well as my legs.

I'd discarded the Gaggenau because their double oven is too tall for the space I have. The Viking French door or Bosch side opening door double ovens would fit in the space of the Miele.

I just figured out that a stack of the Gaggenau, combi-steam, singe oven and warming drawer would fit. Water input comes close by but not a drain unless it can go under the floor to the prep sink drain in the island. I think that the total stack costs significantly more than either of the double ovens two before adding in the cost of the plumbing.

Is the combi-steam great for making crusty bread? I must admit that the looks of the Gaggenau are awesome.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 5:49PM
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My stacked 200 series oven and combi-steam are 45" together, with about an inch of trim between. (I think the sizes are the same as the current models.) There is a tank version of the combi-steam if you don't want to plumb it, though having the plumbing means descaling once in a very blue moon (like years) and otherwise forgetting about the water. You do have to have space nearby for the trap and valve if you plumb. Mine does go down through the floor to the main drain which starts at the cleanup sink, and meets the prep and combi- at the island, then runs through the laundry. If it's not easily retrofitted, it's probably not worth the bother.

I did get a little "pizza stone" (quote marks because it's thin) to fit in the combi- but I have it purposefully high, and I haven't gotten around to trying to bake in it.

For crusty breads and toothsome pizzas, I use the dedicated pizza stone and electric coil that are an extra you can buy for the regular oven. Rhome410 isn't enthusiastic about hers (and she liked her Wolf ovens better than the Gaggenau before they failed), but I think they're fantastic!

The thing about the combi-steam is that it doesn't do anything you can't achieve by other means. It's just easier. For a lot of things that people want steam on, like crusty roasts and breads, I've always said, "Just put a ramekin of water in your regular oven." I've only recently gotten into the crusty bread thing, and I was a little concerned with the pizza stone in its required bottom position since all the instructions say that the steam pan should be below, but when I put my ramekin of water on a high shelf with the bread on the stone, it gets as nicely crusty as one could wish. I haven't compared to the alternative method, but it compares well to bakery/restaurant crust.

The greatest tricks the combi-steam does are regenerate and steaming. Regenerate mode lets you put in a composed plate to heat up. Meat, veg, starch, it all gets warm without getting overcooked or weird. I decided I didn't care how much it cost when I was microwave steaming vegetables for salad for the holidays and my very favorite glass pot broke. It was too much cold/hot/cold/hot stress. I hate steaming on the stove. There is no work to making vegetables for a couple dozen people in the combi-steam. Prepping, them, yes, but steaming them is a bagatelle. Almost an afterthought.

It also makes excellent poultry. I once did three turkey half breasts and three thighs for Passover. Dead easy. The combi- will hold my 17" Pyrex dish and my 8 qt. Graniteware roaster (with foil on--the lid doesn't fit easily), so most years it gets either the kugel or the brisket. My "goose pot", when I go for the whole turkey has enough room around it in the big oven for a few baked potatoes, or other small oddities, but the combi- year, I put the potatoes on the edge of the turkey pans and they came out fine. (I have a couple of non-meat eaters.)

The first fault I've found with my regular oven is that with the fan on (which includes with the pizza stone setting), the hot air hits the door and reflects at a particular angle, so the right front edge of the bread gets a little browner. Not enough to bother me, but not as even as baking without the fan. The oven will do fan only, fan and some or all of bottom heat, bottom heat only, and top and bottom heat. And that's just for baking. :) You get to choose.

And, yes, unless you can find a good closeout, Gaggenau will cost you more than anything else, and the combi-steam is a premium beyond that.

More than you wanted to know?

I'm still holding good thoughts for the recovery of your Miele. :)

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 7:45PM
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