You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the wonderful pastries that are part of Rosh Hashanah The delicious rugelach and perfectly browned honey raisin challah will move you to a smile. The honey, apples and even the shape of the bread have a significance on this holiday.
Pastry Chef Alex Levin, head pastry chef for the Schlow Restaurant Group, loved baking with this grandmother as a child and shares his passion for eggy, rich challah. Often when you see challah you might recognize it as a long braided loaf of bread but in honor of the Jewish New Year it’s made into a round shape. The spherical shape nods to the continual cycle of the years and seasons.
Sweet foods honey, apples and sugar symbolize a wish for a sweet year full of blessings and abundance. Rabbi Fred Reiner says, “Rather than a happy new year, we wish for a sweet new year.” Rosh Hashanah begins this Wednesday at sundown. These delicious breads and pastries will be enjoyed as area Jewish families come together.
RECIPE: Alex Levin's Challah
Bread Flour 1650 g // 13 ¾ cups
Fine Sea Salt 30 g // 1 tbs + 2 tsp.
Instant Yeast 21 g // 3 envelopes
Water or Milk 690 g // 3 cups
Honey 360 g // 1 cup + 1 tbs.
Soft Butter or Oil 360g // 3 sticks + 2 tsp or 1 ½ cups + 2 tsp
Eggs 225g // 4 ½ large eggs
Whole Eggs 100 g // 2 large eggs
Yolk 50 g // 2 ½ large eggs (yolks only)
Water 50 g // 3 tbs + 1 tsp
Salt 2 pinches
Honey 50-100 g // 2 ½ -5 tbs.
** For Rosh Hashanah: Add 3 cups of Raisins in Step 9 (if you prefer raisin challah). Then in step 11, divide evenly into 3 or 4 pieces (3 for larger breads, 4 for smaller ones). Now each piece will be one challah – simply roll out to 18 inches, then roll the strand into a slip-knot and then push the bottom pieces up into the center. Use your hands to ensure that the bread is nice and circular, then proceed to step 15.
Poppy, Sesame Seeds, Fennel Pollen, Maldon Salt
Kitchen Aid Professional 6 quart stand mixer, oven with space for 2 half sheet pans
1. Combine bread flour, salt, and instant yeast in large bowl. Mix well.
2. Combine water or milk, honey and eggs into kitchen aid mixer bowl. If using oil and not butter, add it now too.
3. Pour dry ingredients over wet. If using butter and not oil, add it now.
4. Using the dough hook, mix for 2-3 minutes on lowest speed until all of the dough comes together.
5. Scrape the bowl on the sides and bottom with a spatula or plastic bowl scraper.
6. Mix on low speed for 2 more minutes.
8. The dough will seem very wet. Don't add any more flour.
9. Holding the howl with your hands, turn the mixer to medium speed and mix aggressively until the dough detaches from the bottom of the bowl. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. At this point, the dough will not feel as wet since the gluten will not be fully developed. There is no need to knead the dough at all.
10. Place the dough in a large metal bowl that has been coated with Pam spray or oil, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for 45-60 minute or until double in size in a warm spot of the kitchen. Remove the plastic, and punch the dough down. Reseal with plastic and let rise for 30 more minutes.
11. Meanwhile, make the egg wash by combining all ingredients and blending very well. Add enough honey until the egg wash is sweet (50-100 g based on your preference).
12. Once the dough is finished rising, weigh the entire dough in a bowl on a kitchen scale. To make 4 medium sized loaves with 3 strands, use the total weight of the dough divided by 12 to identify the weight of each strand. Then subtract 5 grams. Divide the dough evenly into 12 strands. When dividing if a piece is too small, add more dough but make sure the larger of the two pieces is on the bottom.
13. Using no flour to shape the strands, flatten each piece roughly into a rectangle. From top to bottom, roll and pinch the dough tightly, turning each rectangle into a fat strand. Repeat with all the other pieces. Then invert the strands, flatten and repeat the shaping process. Now using a small amount of flour, roll each strand out to 300-350 cm. Make sure each piece is even.
14. Braid simply with three strands per loaf, pinch and tuck the ends.
15. Place on two loaves on a parchment lined ½ sheet pan, brush lightly with egg wash, cover in plastic and let rise for 30-45 minutes more. Egg wash a second time, sprinkle with garnishes (generously with seeds, lightly with salt).
16. Meanwhile preheat the ovens to 350F / 175 C, place the pans in the oven for 20 minutes, quickly rotate the trays and positions in the oven and egg wash one final time.
17. Bake another 20-30 minutes – until a thermometer reads 90C/194F in the middle of each challah.
18. Remove from oven, carefully place on a wire rack to cool. Serve or freeze when cool. If refreshing a frozen loaf, let the bread thaw completely and refresh in the oven for 15 minutes at 325F / 163C.
If you’re happy to indulge your sweet tooth look for offerings such as honey raisin challah, caramelized apple pie, and hazelnut chocolate crunch rugelach. Chef Alex will host a pop-up bakeshop inside Altra Strada.