As opposed to most of the bakery recipes I publish on this blog, these breads take quite some time to prepare. On the positive side, they are amazingly good, and every time I make them, they get eaten within a matter of hours. So, if you’d like to take up a challenge – lets bake a filled Challah.
The original idea of making such a bread is not mine. It belongs to Erez Komarovsky, a chef/baker that started as an owner of a bakery, then developed it into a network of bakeries, then added restaurants, and then sold them all in order to move to a quiet and peaceful Galilee to continue cooking (and teaching others) there.
The idea of baking a Pâte à pain roll filled with vegetables (or meat, or cheese) is, of course, far from being original. The innovation here is taking the same approach with a Challah bread. For those not familiar with the concept, let me say a couple of words about Challah: it is a kind of bread loaf, prepared for festive days according to Jewish tradition. (Saturday, for instance, is a festive day). It is a kind of very soft (and, in many cases sweet) pastry, that is very aromatic. In fact, for many Jewish families, the aroma of freshly baked Challah is intrinsically connected with the aroma of “home”. The goal Erez has defined for himself was to keep these very important qualities of Challah, but to create a filled version, where the filling would combine naturally with the dough.
As for the results – judge for yourself. In this post, I will be presenting the salty variants (dough specifically prepared for salty fillings and 2 different filling variants), and I’ll soon publish a different post with details about preparing the sweet ones.
Ingredients (for the dough):
1 kg. of flour
480 ml. water
40 gr. fresh yeast (or 1.5 tbsp. of dry yeast)
100 gr. of brown sugar, preferably Demerara
250 gr. of cold butter cut into cubes
1.25 tbsp. salt
1. Take all the dough ingredients (except for the salt and the butter) and knead the dough either manually or using a mixer. Take about 8 minutes to knead it thoroughly.
2. Now add the butter and the salt and knead some more until you get a soft, elastic dough that doesn’t stick easily (it should take 2-3 minutes). If you are using a mixer, add the butter gradually.
3. Transfer the dough into a bowl, cover with a cellophane wrap and leave it in a refrigerator for, at least, 4 hours. (Its better to leave it there overnight and to continue the next day)
4. Set an oven to 180C. Now take the dough and separate it into 4 equal parts.
5. Each part should be rolled into a rectangle, measuring approximately 16cms x 60cms. Put the filling (variants below) in the middle of the rectangle, then “close” it to form a roll and make sure you press the edges well.
6. Now take the roll and make a snail-shaped loaf of it (see the photo above). Don’t push the “snail” tightly, as the dough will expand a bit more. Cover the loaf with a towel and leave it for an hour.
7. After an hour, brush the “snails” with the egg liquid and sprinkle with either poppy seeds (for mushroom variant) or coarse salt (for spinach variant).
8. Now its time to bake them in the oven. I managed to put them all together on a single shelf (locating them diagonally). It is recommended to bake only one shelf at a time (for ovens that could, in theory, bake two or more in parallel, located one above the other).
9. Important touch – put a couple of ice cubes at the bottom of the oven to guarantee humidity during baking.
10. Bake for 40 minutes (until ready).
These Challah breads are best served warm, straight form the oven. If you’d like, you can keep them in the refrigerator and warm them in a microwave before serving.
(For 2 “snails”)
30 gr. butter
1 medium-sized onion cut into cubes
500 gr. spinach
120 gr. grated Kashkaval cheese
1 tsp. flour
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
1. Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and fry on a medium heat until it becomes transparent.
2. Chop the spinach coarsely and add the the pan. Fry until the spinach becomes soft (a couple of minutes)
3. Remove from the heat and cool. Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly
The process is similar to the spinach filling, but instead of spinach, take 500 grams of mushrooms and chop them (the exact kind of mushrooms is less relevant, I used a mix of edible Agaricus and various “forest” mushrooms). When frying mushrooms, do this on high heat, in order to really fry them instead of just releasing their liquids.