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Holiday Countdown #6: More Challah

By Jackie Burrell
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 at 2:11 pm in Cuisine, holidays.

Challah (Chicago Tribune/MCT There’s no such thing as too much challah, right? So here are a couple of recipes from Joan Nathan, as we promised the other day.

The first is for an anise-flavored bread -if your kids are licorice lovers, they’ll love this; if that’s not their fave flave, you might want to substitute something else, like sesame seeds. But the great thing about this recipe is that it’s unbelievably speedy. Joan says one hour, start to finish – and as she mentioned before, challah-making is a great activity to do with kids.

The second recipe is a Jewish take on Tarte Flambee, which is kind of a French take on pizza. Tell your kids that, anyway! It’s an Alsatian dish made with thinly rolled bread dough and topped with creme fraiche, onions and lardons. Joan’s reinvention uses challah dough for the base, gruyere cheese and, of course, no bacon. It’s an infinitely forgiving recipe though, so feel free to customize it to your family’s tastes.

Makes 4 challahs

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, divided
½ cup peanut or vegetable oil
7-8 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 heaping teaspoons anise seeds
1 tablespoon water
1½ tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

1. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 375 degrees, and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Put the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook, and pour in the water. Stir. When the yeast has dissolved, whisk in the 2 whole eggs, then add the oil.

3. Add 7 cups flour, the salt, sugar and anise seeds to the bowl, and beat for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary. Form into a round loaf, then poke a 1-inch hole all the way through the center. Let the dough rest uncovered on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.

4. Use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. If needed, re-flour the work surface. Flour your hands. Roll one of the pieces of dough into a cylinder about 20 inches long. Use the palms of your hands to flatten it, then roll it into a rope about 2 feet long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring the two ends next to each other and twist to form a loose spiral. Place on one of two lined baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough, placing 2 on each baking sheet.

5. Beat the 2 egg yolks in a bowl, then add the water. Stir well, and brush the mixture over the loaves. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Cool before serving.

A Jewish Twist on Tarte Flambee
Serves 6-8

Semolina for the pan
1 pound leftover challah dough
½ cup farmer’s cheese
¼ cup creme fraiche
1 cup very finely chopped onions or shallots
1 tablespoon canola oil
Salt, pepper
Grated nutmeg to taste
½ cup shredded Gruyere

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina.

2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a paper-thin circle, 18 inches in diameter. Carefully fold in quarters, transfer and unfold on the baking sheet.

3. Mix the farmer’s cheese and creme fraiche in a small bowl and spoon over dough. Scatter the onions or shallots over the cheese. Drizzle the oil on top, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and scatter Gruyere over all. Bake 10 minutes, or until golden.

— Courtesy Joan Nathan, “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” (Alfred A. Knopf, 388 pp., $39.95)

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